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Local News

February 21, 2013

Defense: Suspect didn't know he was dragging ex

SALEM — Prosecutors say there’s no way Daniel Rodriguez didn’t know he was dragging his former girlfriend down a Salem street before running her over one afternoon in December 2011.

She was screaming, and so was a witness, prosecutor Greg Friedholm aid. Her foot was trapped inside the open door by a seat belt.

But Rodriguez’s lawyer is hoping to convince a Salem Superior Court judge that there’s no way the grand jury that indicted Rodriguez, 23, would be able to infer what he knew based on what they were told.

Rodriguez, of Jamaica Plain, is facing four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (the rented car he was driving that day) in the incident, which took place on North and Federal streets in Salem. The woman, who had broken up with Rodriguez, had agreed to get into his car to talk, only to be assaulted, prosecutors allege. The woman suffered a broken elbow and road rash.

Mark Schmidt yesterday urged Judge John Lu to dismiss the two most serious counts against his client, the ones that carry a potential state prison term, saying Rodriguez had no idea his former girlfriend was dangling from the passenger side of the car when he drove away following an argument.

The law, argued Schmidt, requires that in order to prove a case of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a jury must find that a defendant acted recklessly, willfully or wantonly.

But, he argued, “there’s no clear evidence ... he knew that she was stuck to the car.” And since driving, even accelerating, is not necessarily a “reckless” activity, the defense lawyer suggested, that required element cannot be proven.

Rodriguez, his lawyer said, had already stopped once before, then drove away, thinking she was out of the car.

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