Update 3:20 p.m. April 21: This story has been updated with a “no comment” from the lawyer representing Roger Rodriguez.
The search for a new Vinton municipal court judge netted but one applicant – the former judge who may be under FBI investigation for his actions while serving as a legal advisor to then-El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales.
In January, the Vinton council voted to begin the process to seat a new judge after allowing its contract with longtime Municipal Judge Roger Rodriguez to expire. On March 21, after the application process closed, the council – without any discussion in open session — voted to continue the search.
Records obtained by El Paso Matters under the Texas Public Information Act showed that Rodriguez was the only applicant for the judgeship.
The council decision to continue the search prompted Rodriguez to file an open records request on March 27 asking Vinton for all “information, documents, texts, notes, emails, or any other communication in any format involving the process/selection and consideration of the position for Vinton Municipal Judge.”
Rodriguez’s request remains pending as the Vinton council voted to ask for an attorney general opinion on whether a portion of his open records request is protected from disclosure under attorney-client privilege.
Various attempts by El Paso Matters to reach Rodriguez by phone, text or email were not returned. However, Caroline Newman Small, a San Antonio lawyer representing Rodriguez sent El Paso Matters a letter stating that Rodriguez had no comment and that he disputes all of the allegations made against him.
Village of Vinton officials referred all questions to the village’s agenda and minutes which show the search was extended.
Vinton and Rodriguez were thrust into the spotlight last year when Rodriguez was accused of threatening a family that was set to testify against Rosales, who was then El Paso district attorney. She resigned in December amid court proceedings to remove her from office on the grounds of incompetence and official misconduct.
While Rodriguez has never been an employee of the District Attorney’s Office, he represented Rosales on some legal matters. He has been referred to as Rosales’ “legal advisor” and he was with Rosales when she spoke to the families of the Walmart shooting victims after a hearing in which 409th District Court Judge Sam Medrano questioned Rosales’ work on the case.
In ensuing hearings, Rodriguez was accused of threatening the family of Alexander Hoffmann, a man killed in the Walmart attack. El Paso lawyer Justin Underwood submitted a report accusing Rodriguez of threatening the family and disclosed that the FBI had asked him for all of the information regarding Rodriguez’s dealings with the Hoffmanns.
“On August 29, 2022, I met with Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. With the permission of my clients, I turned over to the agents the Hoffmann’s affidavits and all other information provided to me by my clients,” Underwood wrote in his report to the 409th District Court.
Separate from the Walmart court case, various former Fort Bliss soldiers who belonged to an organization for veterans formed by Rodriguez accused him of fraud, saying he also threatened them. They, too, said they had been contacted by FBI agents.
The FBI said this week that it “does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations per DOJ policy.”
Rodriguez was municipal judge for 14 years in Vinton, a town of 2,700 people in northwest El Paso County. On Jan. 17 he spoke before the Vinton council and asked for an opportunity “to continue to serve this community.”
He told the Vinton council he was a victim of fake news and misinformation.