Vt. Man Claims Meds, Booze Impaired Grasping Miranda Waiver
West Lebanon — A Vermont man who allegedly kidnapped a woman and shot a Woodsville man multiple times before surrendering to police wants several incriminating statements he made to authorities thrown out of court, claiming that he made them while under the influence of alcohol and medications that impaired his judgment.
Omar Rodriguez, who faces federal charges of kidnapping and car jacking for the March 2012 attack on Steve Rodimon, his estranged wife’s boyfriend, claims that he suffers from a variety of physical and mental health disorders — including depression, personality disorder, diabetes, and kidney failures — and was on several medications, including some opiates, when he provided details of the alleged crime to police.
“His medical and physical conditions, the medications that he had been prescribed, and opiates and alcohol that he had ingested before the incidents, appear to have vitiated his ability to waive (his) Miranda (rights) knowingly and voluntarily,” Rodriguez’s public defender, Michael Desautels, wrote in court filings.
However, federal prosecutors say that Rodriguez, who was found competent to stand trial, saw doctors in the days before abducting Rodimon and Tina Evans outside the Ocean State Job Lot in St. Johnsbury, Vt., and was found to be in acceptable mental health not to have problems with his medication.
Moreover, prosecutors argue, Rodriguez allegedly has told inmates that he would dodge criminal prosecution by “pretending to be incompetent.”
“There is no evidence to suggest that Rodriguez used any substances on the evening of the event,” United States Attorney Tristram Coffin wrote. “His behavior throughout the events suggests that he was alert and oriented as to what was going on.”
A court hearing on the defense’s request is scheduled for February.
Rodriguez, of St. Johnsbury, pleaded not guilty to charges in U.S. District Court in Brattleboro earlier this month. His case, which involves allegations that he crossed state lines, was transferred from state court to federal court last year, and is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Rodimon may have been shot four or five times, according to an FBI affidavit, including once in the stomach and once in the chest. He was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where he remained for months while undergoing multiple surgeries. He survived.
Desautels and Rodimon did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
An affidavit filed by F.B.I. Special Agent William McSalis gives the following account.
Around 9:30 p.m. on March 5, 2012, Rodimon and Evans walked outside of the Ocean State Job Lot when Rodriguez, wearing a mask and holding a gun, approached them.
“I told you I wasn’t joking,” Rodriguez said.
The men began to struggle, a shot was fired, Rodimon was hit, and Rodriguez’s mask fell off. Rodriguez ordered Rodimon to get inside the trunk of his own car. When Rodimon questioned him, Rodriguez allegedly shot him in the stomach.
“I told you I wasn’t kidding,” he said.
He then forced Rodimon into the passenger’s seat, and ordered Evans to drive them to the Comerford Dam in Barnet, Vt. Rodriguez eventually told her to drive to Littleton, N.H., where he gave Evans money and had her fill the car with gas. As Evans continued to drive, Rodriguez spoke on the phone several times with his estranged wife and told her that Rodimon had “holes in his body,” according to the affidavit, and that “someone is going to die tonight.”
New Hampshire State Police caught up with the car in Lisbon, N.H., but, on Rodriguez’s instructions, Evans did not pull over and eventually drove to Wells River, Vt., where Vermont State Police deployed spike strips and deflated the car’s tires near the P&H Truck Stop.
After initially refusing, Rodriguez eventually agreed to get out of the car and surrender, around 2 a.m.
During the ordeal, police said, Rodriguez allegedly shot Rodimon again, though details have not been explained.
In the months before he was allegedly abducted, Rodimon had sought a court order against Rodriguez for protection.
Meanwhile, state court documents show that Rodimon had sought a restraining order against Rodriguez just weeks before the incident. On Feb. 21, 2012, Rodimon wrote to Grafton Superior Court requesting a restraining order against Rodriguez. Rodimon wrote that Rodriguez had left him menacing phone messages, slashed his tires and threatened him.
“Level of violence has recently increased to the point of I fear for my safety and anyone around me,” Rodimon wrote in his request for a restraining order. “Omar has threatened me, my tires have been knifed at home and work. He is trying to follow me ... He is suffering from kidney failure and is on dialysis three times a week and does not have much to lose.”
The case was pending when the alleged shooting occurred.
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.