West Des Moines Pays $450,000 After Arresting and Charging Innocent Man

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- "There was literally 13, 14 cops there," said Matthew Rodrigues. "That`s why it blows my mind that big of a mistake was made with so many police officers there."

On a Friday Night in late April, Rodrigues was at the Motel 6 in West Des Moines, because his friend was throwing a party there.

"I was there for maybe 30 minutes tops," said Rodrigues.

But before Rodrigues left, he was approached by police.

"I`m on the phone, he keeps approaching me," said Rodrigues. "I`m like man, get away from me. Why you harassing me? And he kept calling me 'junior.' (I'm like) man, my name is not junior, get away from me."

Police were at the motel investigating a sexual assault, and questioned Rodrigues as a possible suspect.

"He`s like you're Mexican. I`m like, no, I`m not. I`m Portuguese, dude. Oh, it`s all the same."

"When I told him my name, he`s like, see, you're Mexican. I`m like no, I`m not. And, he was telling me he was looking for a Mexican individual that matched my description."

Police charged Rodrigues with sexual assault and took him to the Dallas County Jail. He spent the next 11 days trying to convince officers they had the wrong guy.

"Ten dollar phone calls," said Rodrigues. "I spent $900 on phone calls and food...trying to contact police to tell them to watch the video, trying to do whatever I could for them to watch this video. That video is the key to my freedom and it took them 11 days to watch it."

After nearly two weeks in jail, Rodrigues was released. Police "determined that Matthew Rodrigues is innocent of the charge." The same day he was released,  police arrested Salvador Pineda Jr.

"Honestly, it was a case of racial profiling, is what it comes down to," said Rodrigues. "They approached me because they said I was a Hispanic male. They approached me because of that. Not because of anything else."

Pineda Jr. was charged with sex abuse. He pled guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and burglary as part of a plea deal.

"Me and him have one thing in common," said Rodrigues. "We both have tan skin. That`s the only thing me and this man have in common."

West Des Moines Police say Rodrigues was arrested due to a case of mistaken identity. And as part of a settlement with Rodrigues, police deny doing anything improper or illegal concerning this incident.

The following Statement was provided to WHO-TV Channel 13 News from the City of West Des Moines:

On April 29, 2017 at approximately 12:33 a.m., officers from the West Des Moines Police Department responded to a report of sexual assault at the Motel 6 in West Des Moines. Upon arrival they encountered Matthew Rodrigues, who was in the motel parking lot. Following investigation and questioning of the motel clerk, Mr. Rodrigues was arrested, taken into custody and transported to the Dallas County jail.

Subsequent investigation revealed that another individual, Salvador Junior Pineda, was the perpetrator of the offense. Mr. Rodrigues, who had been in jail for eleven days, was then released.

Mr. Rodrigues made a claim against the City for false arrest, which was referred to Iowa Community Assurance Pool (ICAP), the City’s insurance provider. Following negotiations, Mr. Rodrigues and ICAP reached a settlement of $450,000.00. The City paid $10,000.00 (the amount of the City’s deductible) toward the settlement.

Richard Scieszinski
City Attorney