By Taylor Smith
WOODLAND, CA – Several crimes from 2012 resurfaced in a resentencing hearing for Richard Rodriguez last Friday morning here in Yolo County Superior Court, who saw two strikes stricken from his record.
Despite hearing an extensive statement explaining Rodriguez’s reentry plan and redemption efforts, and a court reduction of two strikes, the judge sentenced Rodrigues to 14 more years in prison, a modification of his previous sentence.
Deputy Public Defender Sara Johnson requested the court consider resentencing Rodriguez based on his time already served, illustrating extensive work into his reentry plan and hoped to have some of his prior convictions stricken in the interest of justice.
In response to this request, Judge Tom Dyer detailed he would only consider resentencing Rodriguez if he could find that Rodriguez would no longer pose a threat to public safety.
He then explained that he was looking for certain mitigating circumstances in order to rule in favor of the petitioner, and moved to explain each accompanied by relevant information from this case that disproved each mitigating circumstance.
Rodriguez’s first degree burglaries from 1984 and 1996 both resulted in enhancements on his 2012 conviction, but Judge Dyer explained that in this circumstance, the court is not required to dismiss enhancements if it is in the interest of justice.
The second mitigation considered was the application of enhancements resulting in a sentence of over 20 years. Dyer said according to the court’s calculation of Rodriguez’s sentence, the factor that pushed his sentence to be longer than 20 years was not his enhancements but the three-strike rule—which has been deemed a sentencing scheme rather than an enhancement.
He continued through this process of reading more mitigating circumstances—including enhancements on prior convictions over five years old, discriminatory racial impact, and factors of aggravation—and disproving them for this case.
In investigating the aggravating factors, Judge Dyer informed the court the victim from Rodriguez’s burglary in 2012 was alone with her children in the middle of the night, but was not in an overly vulnerable position and was able to scare off the burglar without facing any violence.
Then, the judge delved into considering Rodriguez’s background and circumstances. Although he has prior criminal convictions that date back to the 1980s, Rodriguez’s drug and alcohol abuse take precedence—dating all the way back to when he was only 10 years old.
His 45 years of addiction included many drug violations in prison and poor performance while on parole and was followed by several relapses. Despite his current sobriety for the last six years, the court still found reason to believe Rodriguez is a concern to public safety, given his lifetime of substance abuse.
Not only his substance abuse, but also his childhood trauma were prominent factors in all of his crimes, the court held.
Judge Dyer dove deeper into his analysis of Rodriguez upon explaining how he was abandoned by his mother at a very young age.
Consequently, he was raised by a father who had several mental disabilities and issues and “could not operate in life.” His father also attempted suicide when Rodriguez was very young.
Building onto his unstable childhood climate, Rodriguez reportedly had to attend to a close friend who also attempted suicide when they were both young. Judge Dyer deemed him to have been brought up in a constant situation where “he did not have the tools to deal with the problems around him, which led him to substance abuse.”
The judge then noted Rodriguez’s positive history in the prison industry, his old age, and his reentry plan through the Freedom Through Education program. He has been involved in bible study and the prison ministry, as says he is guided by religion and the support of his family.
Because of these factors, the court was able to consider striking any offenses that related to the accused’s circumstances and background. This includes crimes related to Rodriguez’s history of drug addiction and not including any actual violence, which was just about all of them.
The court also noted that he began his sobriety despite looking at a life sentence and availability of drugs in prison; he was praised for having taken the individual initiative to better himself.
Rodriguez was then noted to have explained himself now that he understands his “pride and selfishness” coupled with his childhood trauma led him down a bad path, and he is now moving on the right path.
After all of this back and forth and rationalization of Rodriguez’s crimes without minimizing their effects, Judge Dyer said, “on a spectrum of criminal conduct, his criminal behavior is closer to the end of less reprehensible conduct,” and then determined that his two prior strikes would be dismissed—these strikes being the burglaries from 1984 and 1996.
This still meant, however, that he would be facing a 14-year prison sentence for the rest of his crimes that negatively impacted public safety.
To close out this rollercoaster of a hearing, Judge Dyer finally spoke directly to Rodriguez, explaining that he recognizes his display of remorse and redemption.
“I want to congratulate you on your sobriety. I am mindful of the long history that you’ve had,” said the judge, and reminded Rodriguez, “If something happens again, sir, you will spend the rest of your life in prison, but I have every belief that that’s not the case. You’re going to move forward, be there for your grandkids, be there for your family, and I wish you the best of luck.”