SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 13, 2013

Man gets 5 1/2 to 6 years for assault

Admits dragging ex-girlfriend with car

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A Boston man was sentenced yesterday to 51/2 to six years in state prison yesterday after admitting that he pummeled his former girlfriend and then dragged her with his car the length of a football field as she tried to escape.

Daniel Rodriguez, 24, and his attorney, Mark Schmidt, blamed untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for the Dec. 29, 2011, attack on Rikki Gulliford, who was 19 at the time.

His victim isn’t entirely convinced, however.

“I think he did have a plan,” Gulliford said outside court after yesterday’s sentencing before Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley. “I think he planned to beat me. I don’t think he planned to drag me.”

The two had dated for about six months before she broke things off because of a prior assault and Rodriguez’s escalating need to control her, demanding to know where she was and trying to limit her contact with family and friends.

But two weeks later, Rodriguez, who lived in Jamaica Plain at the time, showed up at her home in a rented car she at first did not recognize. He eventually convinced her to get in so that they could talk, a prosecutor said.

That talk turned into an argument, and as Rodriguez drove through Salem, he turned onto Federal Street and then pulled over, prosecutor Greg Friedholm told the judge.

Dr. Jane Arlander was enjoying a walk when she saw Rodriguez on top of Gulliford, beating her on the face and chest as she struggled to break free, said the prosecutor.

As Arlander screamed at Rodriguez to stop, Gulliford managed to get the door open and tried to scramble out of the car. But her foot became wedged between the seat and the door frame. As she and Arlander yelled, Rodriguez sped off, “pedal to the metal,” Friedholm said.

Gulliford used all her strength to try to sit up so that she would not strike the pavement.

Rodriguez stopped briefly, then sped off again down Federal Street, with Gulliford still hanging from the side of the car. As they traveled down the narrow one-way street, an off-duty Treasury agent stepped out and got the car to stop again. Gulliford managed to free herself but landed near a front wheel. As Rodriguez sped off again, he ran over her arm, breaking her elbow.

Her father, Rick Gulliford, shudders when he thinks of what could have happened.

“He could have run over her head,” said Eileen Carey, a close family friend who helped raise Rikki Gulliford.

Rodriguez drove away that day and was not caught until more than two months later. Salem police Detective John Doyle and Sgt. William Jennings, who worked on the case, also attended yesterday’s hearing.

The sentence came after extensive negotiations.

Last fall, Rodriguez tried to offer a guilty plea to some of the charges in return for a short term in the house of correction; prosecutors wanted a longer state prison term, and a judge said he needed time to mull his decision. In the following months, Schmidt filed a motion to dismiss some charges, arguing that Rodriguez did not realize that he was dragging the young woman with his car.

“To say that this joint recommendation is the product of lengthy negotiations would truly be an understatement,” said Friedholm, the prosecutor, who urged Feeley to accept the deal, sparing Gulliford from having to testify.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to four charges: assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (the car), causing serious bodily injury; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (the pavement); assault and battery; and driving after license suspension. He received the prison term for the first charge, along with concurrent jail terms on the assault and battery and driving after suspension counts.

Following his prison term, Rodriguez will have to spend five years on supervised probation on the second charge, which will include a requirement that he attend a domestic abuse treatment program.

Schmidt said Rodriguez’s family has “pledged to me, and I pledge to this court, that they are going to support him, guide him and give him all the help he needs to make something of his life.”

Schmidt pointed to the ADHD diagnosis, for which Rodriguez has opted not to receive treatment, as being at the root of his behavior.

“I think that impulsiveness he identified for you is really what lies at the bottom of this very sad case,” Schmidt said.

Rodriguez, who wore a button-down shirt and sweater vest, covering part of a neck tattoo, asked the judge if he could speak.

Feeley advised Rodriguez to consult his attorney first.

“I’m sorry over what happened,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it happened, and I hope the victim in this case is doing well.”

Outside the courtroom, Rodriguez’s aunt approached the Gullifords and apologized on behalf of the family.

Gulliford has mostly healed from her injuries, which also included a severe case of “road rash” on the right side of her body, and surgery to repair her elbow, but she still needs physical therapy, something she has been unable to afford because she has no health insurance.

Her family is trying now to help her get coverage.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.