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Pueblo County deputy fired but avoided criminal charges for bringing illicit drugs into jail, giving to inmates

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Over the last several months, 13 Investigates has been compiling documents that reveal a former deputy was actively bringing heroin and Percocet pills into the Pueblo County Jail and giving them to inmates. Inmates were testing positive for heroin in the days after this activity was uncovered.

The documents, obtained via public records requests, show Jose Rodriguez was fired in February 2021 for this activity but was never charged despite an internal affairs investigation recommending felony charges for Rodriguez. Documents reveal former Sheriff Kirk Taylor, former Undersheriff J.R. Hall, and current Sheriff Dave Lucero all had knowledge of the illegal activity and participated in the investigation.

Rodriguez in a 2017 interview

On February 8, 2021, internal documents say Rodriguez was seen on surveillance video at a local 7/11 in Pueblo accepting $20 and several dozen illicit pills from a woman. In the days afterward, Rodriguez's wife, a fellow PCSO employee, told Undersheriff Hall that Rodriguez was "addicted to narcotics." She mentioned that he was "probably high again" and had a history of using fentanyl.

A week and a half after the investigation was opened, Sgt. Joshua Rude spoke with Rodriguez. In that conversation, he denied bringing drugs into the jail. When Rude informed him that he was caught on video accepting the drugs, he admitted to placing the drugs into toilet paper rolls which were accessible to inmates.

Rodriguez claimed that he did it because "they" were threatening him. The internal records reveal three names are listed as "they." However, they are redacted from viewing by 13 Investigates.

As the investigation was concluded on February 19, 2021, Sgt. Rude wrote that he recommended Rodriguez be charged with Introduction of Contraband, a class-four felony, and official misconduct, a class-two misdemeanor.

However, 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner tells 13 Investigates an opportunity to charge the former deputy never came across his desk. 13 Investigates asked Chostner for an interview regarding why he declined. He did issue this statement:

"Many cases do not come to our Office as the investigating agency has determined there is not enough probable cause to go forward.  We do not receive all cases as these agencies frequently do not refer them to us.  That is a normal course of business.  So I don’t want to go on camera to state this as it is implicitly a criticism of the SO in this case and other LE agencies in general.  I consider them doing their job if they don’t refer cases to me.  Not every case should come to me, so I don’t see that as unusual."

10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner

13 Investigates also reached out to former PCSO Sheriff Kirk Taylor for an interview when we first learned of these allegations. He declined. Current Sheriff Dave Lucero also declined to answer our questions claiming that the investigation involved a "personnel matter" and could not comment on it.

When asked why Rodriguez was never charged for the activity in the internal documents, Sheriff Lucero released this statement:

“This case was staffed with the District Attorney’s Office. Based on that staffing, the case was not sent to the District’s Office for the following reason: Collectively and collaboratively, we could not say what was introduced into the jail, therefore there was not probable cause to warrant charges and no further action was taken. The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office did have evidence that something was introduced into the jail, which we were able to use internally for sustained policy violations, but we did not know what was introduced and after staffing this case with the District Attorney’s Office, the probable cause threshold for criminal charges was not met.”

-- Sheriff Dave Lucero

After the investigation was concluded, Rodriguez was served with a separation letter and was relieved of his duties. Since then, he has picked up numerous felony charges across Colorado, including car theft in Pueblo last year. Last month, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for possession of a controlled substance while in possession of a deadly weapon in Douglas County.

Rodriguez's public defender declined to speak with 13 Investigates while he was in jail.

Former Sheriff Kirk Taylor and Undersheriff J.R. Hall have all been promoted within law enforcement since the incident. Taylor is a current U.S. Marshal appointed by President Biden. Hall is now the head of Colorado's Parole Board, which is in charge of granting who gets early release for people within Colorado's prisons.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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