Head of NYC anti-violence program pleads guilty to drug, gun charges

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

He was tasked with reducing violent crime in the Big Apple, but according to prosecutors in nearby Orange County Michael Rodriguez had a side gig that only exacerbated the problem.


Rodriguez was busted back in July as part of an investigation into drug and gang activity, and a search of his Yonkers home turned up more than a kilo of cocaine, about $165,000 in cash, along with two unlicensed firearms and various paraphernalia connected to the drug trade like scales, a money counter, and a vacuum sealer. At the time Rodriquez was director of Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence, a group that uses “credible messengers who are people from the impacted neighborhoods that can build a good rapport with youth and other residents due to their prior history of engaging in activities that exposed them to risk for involvement in the justice system.”

In theory, those “credible messengers” can connect with young offenders and encourage them to change the direction of their life, as well as intervening in beefs or feuds that can lead to shots being fired. Unfortunately, when you’re relying on folks with a criminal past of their own to change hearts and minds, sometimes you discover that they haven’t actually left their old life behind. That appears to be the case with Rodriguez, who’s now looking at several years in prison for his role in the drug trafficking network.

“It is appalling that the Director of a respected program which serves to reduce gun violence and help at-risk youth would himself be a major drug dealer,” said District Attorney David M. Hoovler. “Those members of our community who suffer through addiction are the vulnerable prey to people like this defendant, who chose a comfortable life cultivated on the backs and over the bodies of his customers.”

Under a plea agreement, it is expected Michael Rodriguez will be sentenced to an aggregate term of 10 years in prison to be followed by five years post-release supervision when he returns to court Jan. 4. He also agreed to forfeit a car and $165,000 as proceeds of his crimes.

Michael Rodriguez was accused of supplying cocaine to narcotics dealers in Middletown and Port Jervis and possessing two illegal handguns.

At the plea proceedings, Michael Rodriguez admitted to entering into a conspiracy with Angelica Rodriguez and Taino Lopez and supplying them cocaine to resell. He pleaded guilty before the Hon. Craig Stephen Brown in Orange County Court to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and Conspiracy in the Second Degree.

The City of Middletown Police Department were later aided in the investigation by the Orange County Drug Taskforce. That Taskforce is run under the supervision of a Senior Criminal Investigator from Orange County District Attorney’s Office and a Senior Investigator from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

“The guilty plea entered by Rodriguez highlights the strength of this case and the tremendous work and effort that went into this investigation,” said Middletown Police Chief John Ewanciw. “This case is also a testament to the investment that law enforcement makes to rid our communities of these poisonous drugs.”


Notice anything remarkable about Rodriguez’s plea deal? It appears as though all of the gun-related charges he was facing were dropped by prosecutors in exchange for his admission of guilt for supplying cocaine to local dealers.

You’d think if prosecutors were going to use any of the plethora of New York gun control laws to go after a suspect, someone like Rodriguez would be at the top of the list, but instead the head of an anti-violence group was able to cop a plea solely to drug charges. It’s almost like the state’s extensive gun control regime isn’t meant for guys like Rodriguez, but to prevent lawful New York gun owners from exercising their fundamental rights instead.


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