Fernando Rodriguez was convicted by a jury Wednesday in the 410th District Court of Aggravated Assault with a motor vehicle. The jury also found that the manner in which Rodriguez used his vehicle constituted the use of a deadly weapon. After the guilty verdict, visiting Judge Reagan Clark, with an agreement of the parties, sentenced Rodriguez to seven years in prison. Due to the deadly weapon finding, Rodriguez will not be eligible for release until he serves at least half of his time. Upon release from prison, it is likely that he will be deported by immigration officials since he is an illegal resident in this country.
At trial, the prosecution showed that on February 18, 2010, Isaac Sheridan, 39, was driving a street sweeper in the construction zone of FM 1488, west of Interstate 45, during early afternoon rush hour. Sheridan was cleaning the street which was set to be opened in two days. The defendant was driving an F-350 Ford with a gooseneck trailer at a dangerous speed when he collided with Sheridan. Prosecutor, Warren Diepraam, elicited testimony through Conroe Police Department crash re-constructionist Chris Hill, that the roadway evidence showed the defendant was driving at over 70 miles per hour in the heavily congested construction zone. Rodriguez struck Sheridan with such force that the sweeper was thrown about 75 feet to the west, Sheridan was thrown almost double that distance, and that with braking it took Rodriguez almost a football field’s length to come to a stop. Conroe Police Officer Jeff Smith, spoke to the defendant that day and the defendant claimed that he was driving at 25-30 miles per hour.
A good samaritan passing by, Destiny Stark, stopped and rendered assistance to Sheridan most probably saving his life. Stark testified that she was driving west on 1488 on the open portion of the roadway at 55 miles per hour when saw the defendant fly past her and weaving in and out of traffic. She further testified that Rodriguez was driving like "an idiot." Testimony elicited through the Montgomery County Hospital paramedics was that Sheridan’s injuries were life threatening and he was flown to a level one trauma center in Houston. Other witnesses testified that workers should drive no faster than 30 miles per hour in a construction zone of that nature. Adele Fields, Sheridan’s mother, testified that Sheridan, a hard working father of five, is basically non-responsive to this day and is still in a rehabilitation facility. She sadly testified that this crash has resulted in millions of dollars of unpaid medical bills and that her husband is divorcing her because she is the caretaker of her son.
On closing, prosecutor Andrew James stated that the defense case smells fishy and is full of red herrings because neither scientific nor verbal testimony supports any of their claims. James also argued that traffic safety is an important event in this county and he has been on this case since it’s inception as a member of the District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes callout team. The jury agreed, taking a few hours to reach its verdict. After the verdict the jury stated that the scientific evidence was strong as was the testimony of Stark. They also indicated that they based more credence on the prosecution’s case because the prosecutors went to the scene and worked with the Conroe Police Department continuously. District Attorney Brett Ligon stated that he was pleased with the verdict and the jury’s comments regarding his policy of sending prosecutors to major crime scenes. He further stated that reckless driving and impaired driving result in three times more fatalities than all other homicides combined in this county and that by aggressively prosecuting these cases, the county will see safer roadways.
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