The case of a Denver Sheriff Department sergeant who was acquitted of assaulting an inmate has been sealed by the courts so the charge and other evidence has been hidden from public view.
However, The Denver Post obtained video footage of the incident through an open records request to the city’s Department of Safety after the jury’s decision was announced last week. The Post’s previous attempts to obtain video had been denied because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
Sgt. Randolph Romero, who had been charged with third-degree assault, no longer works for the sheriff’s department. A month after those charges were filed, Romero was suspended without pay for 40 days for fighting with an inmate in a downtown jail cell. Romero resigned while the criminal case was pending.
The video shows two deputies escort a man who is handcuffed and wearing a spit hood onto an elevator. Romero follows them inside and grabs the inmate by the back of his neck.
There is no audio in the video, but Romero is seen talking to the inmate before reaching around the inmate’s neck and throwing him to the ground. He laid on top of the inmate until the elevator stopped.
The video was shown during the trial. Because the case has been sealed, it is impossible to track down jurors to ask about the acquittal, and the Denver District Attorney’s Office is barred from discussing it.
Under state law, once a case is been sealed judicial officials are instructed to say “No such records exist.” However, two press releases about the case remain on the district attorney’s website.
The court records were sealed at the request of Danny Foster, Romero’s attorney, at the trial’s conclusion. In Colorado, court records can be sealed after charges are dropped or people are found not guilty so that they don’t show up on a person’s record during a criminal background check.
After the Aug. 3 acquittal, Foster blasted Denver District Attorney Beth McCann for making the case a political statement. McCann had campaigned on the promise that she would not be afraid to charge law enforcement officers accused of excessive force.
“This was a case of justifiable force that should never have been filed,” Foster said. “I hope she stops using her office to score political points by wrongfully prosecuting good law enforcement officers.”
Because Romero resigned, the case no longer will be investigated internally by the sheriff’s department.