Courts & Crime

Prosecutors relent and drop the case of the 'keyed' car

Prosecutors on Wednesday moved to dismiss a vandalism charge against a Fresno city fire inspector who said she was targeted because her estranged husband is a Fresno police officer.

District Attorney Elizabeth Egan said she wants the criminal case dismissed against Shandra Rodems, saying it "was taking away from our duty to provide public safety to the citizens."

"We have a ton of critical cases and issues we are facing every day," Egan said. "I decided we would not expend further resources on this case."

Rodems was charged with felony vandalism last summer after police said she used a key to scratch a pickup co-owned by herself and her estranged husband. She contends she is a victim of selective prosecution because her estranged husband, Kennan Rodems, is a Fresno police officer.

In the motion to dismiss, prosecutors denied Shandra Rodems' allegation, saying she admitted to committing a crime and her case was handled like any other domestic-violence case.

But former District Attorney Ed Hunt had testified in a hearing last month that he would not have charged Shandra Rodems with vandalism. Hunt said it was a civil matter.

Former sheriff's detective John Sousa also testified during the hearing that an independent agency -- not the Fresno Police Department -- should have investigated the case because it involved a Fresno police officer.

Attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt, who represents Shandra Rodems, said Wednesday that his client is pleased to hear about the dismissal motion. "This has been a colossal waste of money," he said.

Hammerschmidt, a former deputy district attorney, said the criminal case has been stressful for him and his client.

"I don't like criticizing the DA's Office, because there's a lot of good people working there," he said. "There's just a select few playing politics."

Egan made her decision one day after a judge criticized prosecutors for disobeying a court order that compelled them to turn over evidence that could support Shandra Rodems's claim of selective prosecution.

"I've been given the bird by the District Attorney's Office for the last 36 days," Judge D. Tyler Tharpe said Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court.

While the Police Department has been complying with the December court order, prosecutors say reviewing every vandalism case over the past three years would be time-consuming and take manpower away from other cases.

Egan said Wednesday she decided to seek a dismissal of the charge because Tharpe would not reconsider his December ruling. Tharpe said at Tuesday's hearing that prosecutors failed to file a motion for reconsideration of his ruling in a timely manner.

Egan estimated it would take a month to review the vandalism cases.

"Every case is important, every victim is important," Egan said. But with limited resources, it was best for the prosecution to drop it, she said.

A hearing on the dismissal motion could take place Feb. 4, when Tharpe said he would consider sanctioning prosecutors and also consider Hammerschmidt's request to have prosecutors pay his attorney's fees.

The felony charge stems from a confrontation at a north Fresno bank on May 4, about a week before the couple began divorce proceedings.

In July, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Arlan Harrell reduced the felony charge to a misdemeanor, saying Shandra Rodems had no criminal record and had taken responsibility for her action.

Read the full story at the Fresno Bee.