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Edwin Rodriguez

Other Exonerees Who Were Not Sentenced
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Middlesex_County_NJ.JPG
On September 5, 2013, police in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, were called to the home of 18-year-old Edwin Rodriguez by neighbors complaining of someone riding a mini-motorcycle up and down the street and operating a remote-controlled toy car in the street as well.

When Rodriguez came to the door, Officer Davis Salazar asked him for identification. Rodriguez asked if he could close the door while he went upstairs for his identification. At that time, Rodriguez began using his cell phone to take a video of the confrontation.

According to the video, Rodriguez said, “Could you, please…can I close my door, please?”

Salazar said, “No. I’m waiting for you to go and get your ID.”

“All right,” Rodriguez said. “Well, can you step out of my property? I’m going to go upstairs. You’ve got to wait; other people live here.”

Salazar refused and Rodriguez turned and said, “I ain’t getting nothing.” As he began to walk up a flight of stairs, Salazar, a former Navy Seal, rushed in, tackled Rodriguez and slammed him onto the steps.

A separate cell phone video taken by a resident of the home showed that Salazar was joined by other officers who helped subdue Rodriguez, who was heard yelling, “I’m not doing nothing, bro!”

An officer was heard ordering Rodriguez to put his hands behind his back and Rodriguez shouted several times: “My arm is broken.”

Rodriguez was handcuffed and dragged out of the home by his ankles. He suffered a broken clavicle, according to medical reports. Salazar sprayed Rodriguez with pepper spray as well.

Rodriguez was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct, obstruction and resisting arrest for yelling at police and for possessing a kitchen knife.

On May 29, 2014, Rodriguez went to trial in Middlesex County Municipal Court before Judge Edward Herman, who heard the case without a jury. Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Brian Schiller, tried to cross-examine Salazar by showing him the videos. Judge Herman admitted the video taken by Rodriguez into evidence, but would not permit attorney Schiller to use it in his cross-examination. Schiller claimed that the second video, which the judge would not allow into evidence, showed that Rodriguez did not possess a knife.

After a trial of only a few hours, Herman convicted Rodriguez of two counts of disorderly conduct for yelling at the officers and possessing a knife. He acquitted Rodriguez of obstruction and resisting arrest.

In July 2014, prior to sentencing, Rodriguez was arrested for violating his parole on a prior conviction for aggravated assault. He was jailed for 70 days before he was released.

Meanwhile, Schiller asked for a new trial in Middlesex County Superior Court. On October 14, 2014, Superior Court Judge Diane Pincus granted a new trial, ruling that both videos should have been admitted in evidence and that Schiller should have been allowed to cross-examine Salazar based on the videos.

The case was then assigned to Judge Bradley Ferencz. On November 14, 2014, following a retrial of the case without a jury, Judge Ferencz acquitted Rodriguez of the disorderly conduct charges.

In announcing the verdict, Ferencz said he had “grievous doubt as to whether or not there was a knife” and even if he did, there was no indication it would be used.

“Quite frankly, (Salazar) was hesitant in his answers, disingenuous often…And…his recollection of the events (was) pitiful,” Ferencz said. “(Rodriguez) was walking away upstairs to get his ID, uncontroverted …when he was thrown down... on the ground and sprayed (with pepper spray). If he had retrieved the ID and handed it to the officer, this would not have occurred.”

In May 2016, Rodriguez settled a lawsuit filed in New Jersey Superior Court against Perth Amboy, Salazar, and other officers for $850,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/22/2016
State:New Jersey
County:Middlesex
Most Serious Crime:Other
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2013
Convicted:2014
Exonerated:2014
Sentence:Not sentenced
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No