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Convict accused of rape takes the Fifth at hearing

Officials contend that DNA evidence points to Romero

Rudy Romero
Rudy Romero

A verbally combative Rudy Romero took the Fifth Amendment before the Utah Board of Pardons Friday, saying he could not answer to allegations that he raped five women in the early 1990s.

Last month, Salt Lake City police said Romero, 40, is the Parkway Rapist who allegedly abducted and assaulted 13 women in 11 different incidents along the Jordan Parkway between 1990 and 1993. Recent DNA testing linked Romero to at least five of those assaults.

"I'm going to have to plead the Fifth on this, because I haven't had no due process through the courts," Romero told hearing officer Curtis Garner.

Romero, who has served more than 10 years on a five-to-life sentence for a 1994 aggravated robbery conviction, was set to be paroled last July 27. But in May, Salt Lake detective Cathy Schoney wrote the board with information about the DNA test results. That put Romero's parole on hold until Friday's recision hearing.

The board could keep Romero behind bars, or give him a new, and likely immediate, date to be paroled.

A decision could come as early as next week, Garner said after the hearing.

"We consider everything relative to an inmate's fitness parole," Garner explained to Romero.

Romero will not face new criminal charges in any of the five DNA-matched cases because the statute of limitations for rape is four years after the date of the offense, and therefore, expired long ago.

State law, however, does give the board the right to use credible new information to reconsider decisions about parole.

During the hearing, Romero accused Garner of using the new allegations as a punishment and of circumventing the legal system by denying him legal representation. Current state law, however, does not grant an inmate the right to legal representation during any hearing before the board.

"What does this have to do with my (aggravated) robbery, for what I'm doing time for?" Romero queried, telling Garner that he didn't understand the process before him. "I haven't been convicted of a crime. I have followed all your rules here in prison, the sentencing guidelines, and your prison rules. How are you using this to pull my (parole) date?"

Romero also said the questions he has posed to police, prosecutors and the board in letters have not been sufficiently answered, nor has he received sufficient "discovery" information about the allegations, all of which he has requested.

Garner said the board had passed along every document in their possession.

"There's no answer that's going to satisfy you," Garner told Romero.

When asked directly by Garner if he committed the crimes in question, Romero took the fifth.

"I wouldn't want to speculate as to what that means," Salt Lake detective Kevin Joiner said after the hearing. "Our DNA evidence matches him, we're very positive and very sure of that."

There is some frustration in not being able to bring criminal charges against Romero, but "that's the way our system is put together, that's the way our system runs and that's they way our system works," Joiner added

"As police officers you learn to work within that system. Does it always make us happy? No. but it's not about whether we're happy or not. Our main focus is the victims and that we get some justice and satisfaction for the victims."

Joiner said he had not spoken with any of the victims, nor would anyone confirm if any of the victims were among the observers at the hearing. However, one woman, who was seated next to Schoney during the proceedings, appeared to be crying as she left the hearing room.