A Pima County man serving 10 years in state prison for operating a chop shop did not receive bad legal representation at trial, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last week.
Roderick Aaron “Flaco” Harrell was convicted by a jury in 2018 of felony theft of means of transportation by controlling stolen property as well as conducting a chop shop. His lengthy sentence for the crimes committed in 2016 was based in part on Harrell’s several prior felony convictions.
Harrell, 45, later filed a petition for post-conviction relief with the judge who presided over his trial, arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial judge denied Harrell’s claim, after which Harrell asked the court of appeals for review.
In a unanimous decision released Jan. 13, the appellate court noted Harrell’s claim was accepted for review but relief was denied. The decision means Harrell is not eligible for release from prison until September 2026 at the earliest.
Court records show in 2016 Harrell attempted to register a vehicle identification number (VIN) for a motorcycle he claimed to have assembled from purchased parts. The Pima County Attorney’s Office presented evidence at trial that the VIN matched a motorcycle stolen from a Harley Davidson dealership months earlier.
Harrell argued in his petition for post-conviction relief that his trial attorney failed to call a “Harley Davidson expert” to testify on behalf of the defense. He also contended an expert would have testified that the motorcycle should have been preserved for future examination, something Harrell’s attorney did not ensure.
Instead, the state disposed of the motorcycle prior to Harrell’s 2018 trial.
The trial judge denied Harrell’s petition by noting the defense attorney had, in fact, consulted with a motorcycle expert who actually agreed with the prosecution’s theory that the motorcycle had not been altered or assembled by Harrell. The defense expert’s testimony would have been damaging to Harrell’s case, the judge noted.
When Harrell petitioned for review by the Arizona Court of Appeals he argued in part that his attorney should have consulted with another expert. The appellate court ruled Harrell cited “no evidence or authority suggesting defense counsel falls below prevailing professional standards” in handling the case.
“Instead, after consulting with an expert who confirmed the opinions of the state’s experts, counsel adopted a defense strategy intended to minimize those opinions—that Harrell was unaware the motorcycle had been stolen,” the appellate decision states. “This is precisely the type of conscious and informed strategic decision that cannot support a claim of ineffective assistance.”
Public records show Harrell is housed at the Arizona State Prison Complex- Winslow. His tentative release date in 2026 could be delayed by disciplinary issues, such as an incident in which Harrell assaulted another inmate shortly after arriving in prison.
Harrell is currently classified as close custody, meaning he represents a high risk to the public and staff, and requires controlled movement within the institution.