FOX40 reporter Sabrina Rodriguez issues first public statements since shoplifting charges

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Former KTXL reporter Sabrina Rodriguez poses with cash won in a station contest. (Photo: Sabrina Rodriguez via Facebook.com)

Former KTXL reporter Sabrina Rodriguez poses with cash won in a station contest. (Photo: Sabrina Rodriguez via Facebook.com)

A Sacramento news reporter who was criminally charged in connection with a vast and elaborate shoplifting scheme announced her resignation on Tuesday.

Sabrina Aiko Rodriguez resigned from KTXL “FOX40 News” nearly one week after authorities arrested her in connection with the theft of several brand-name wallets from a local retailer.

“Resigning was not an easy decision to make, but it’s one that will allow me to focus on my case and work to reestablish my good name,” Rodriguez wrote to her 3,000 fans on Facebook.

Later on Tuesday, the reporter issued her first public statement to the press in which she announced the dissolution of her relationship with Nicholas Drenkow Gray, her fiancé and alleged co-conspirator.

“As of today I have severed my ties with Nick Gray,” she wrote in a statement obtained by the Sacramento Bee through her publicist. “I am now focusing on life decisions as I move forward with the support of family, friends, viewers and the community.”

As far as authorities are concerned, the severed relationship came too little too late for the decorated television anchor and news reporter. Last week, the Sacramento County District Attorney charged Rodriguez with three felony criminal counts, including grand theft, burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The first two charges relate to a March 2013 incident in which her then-boyfriend was spotted at a Coach outlet store placing several expensive wallets into a bag designed to evade anti-theft detection machines. According to police documents first published by The Desk, an eyewitness alerted store employees that the duo had walked out of the store without paying for merchandise.

Loss prevention officers engaged Rodriguez in conversation outside the Coach store until Folsom police could arrive on the scene. According to a police report, Rodriguez denied having any involvement in the theft of the wallets. Police reached Gray via telephone, but he refused to return to the store, claiming his attorney had advised against it.

A review of surveillance video at the store appeared to show Rodriguez and Gray colluding on the theft of the wallets, according to police. During the review of the tape, a Coach employee identified Rodriguez to one officer as “a news reporter from FOX40 News” and said the anchor had been in the store several times before.

Rodriguez was let go that day, while the case against her boyfriend was referred to the Sacramento County District Attorney. More than a year later, Gray would be detained by officers in connection with an outstanding arrest warrant — and that’s when authorities began to turn their attention on Rodriguez.

According to a court affidavit obtained by The Desk, prosecutors obtained a search warrant for the contents of Gray’s cell phone that was seized from him at the time of his arrest. Authorities say they found incriminating text messages sent between Gray and Rodriguez over the span of two months that implicated the pair in a long and vast shoplifting scheme — including the incident at the Coach store.

Former KTXL reporter Sabrina Rodriguez, left, with former boyfriend Nicholas Gray, right, at a football game. (Photo: Sabrina Rodriguez via Instagram)

Former KTXL reporter Sabrina Rodriguez, left, with former boyfriend Nicholas Gray, right, at a football game last year. (Photo: Sabrina Rodriguez via Instagram)

One text message sent the day of the Coach store incident seemed to hint at Rodriguez’s involvement in the theft. “I love you so much, your (sic) strong like samurai,” Gray allegedly texted to Rodriguez more than one hour after police made contact with the reporter. Rodriguez reportedly text back: “LOL, love you too.”

Other messages and photos show the pair colluding on the transfer of stolen goods to individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area, where authorities believe Gray intended to sell them. According to court documents, Gray’s phone contained images of merchandise placed next to a woman who wore clothing that Rodriguez was said to own.

Though a police affidavit said the woman’s face was not visible in the photos, a Sacramento County prosecutor wrote in a criminal complaint that the woman was Rodriguez. The photos were also said to have been taken inside a Ford Focus, the same model of car Rodriguez owns.

Rodriguez’s defenders are now trying to paint the picture of a celebrated local news personality who got caught up with a bad person.

“Sometimes you’re caught in a situation that you’re helpless to change,” Rodriguez’s defense attorney Mark Reichel said in an interview with the Sacramento News & Review. Reichel told The Desk last week that his client is “100% innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

Her former station also appears to have gotten helplessly caught up in a bad situation. As Rodriguez announced her severed ties from her alleged co-conspirator, so did KTXL on Tuesday: The station confirmed to The Desk last week that Rodriguez had been placed on voluntary leave pending the outcome of her criminal case.

Shortly after a competing news station broke the story of Rodriguez’s arrest, KTXL deleted a December 2012 story in which the reporter interviews an anonymous criminal who discussed many of the same shoplifting methods that are described in the police report against Gray and Rodriguez. The Desk re-published the report in full after obtaining a copy from an anonymous KTXL employee.

When asked if the shoplifting story would be used as evidence against Rodriguez in her criminal case, Sacramento County District Attorney spokeswoman Shelly Orio refused to comment. Orio also refused to tell The Desk whether KTXL would be investigated for removing the story from publication after Rodriguez’s arrest. The station formally removed all written stories published by Rodriguez following her resignation on Tuesday.

Rodriguez is currently free on $10,000 bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Sacramento court on August 29.