Kevin Romero found guilty in Breckenridge assault case | SummitDaily.com

Kevin Romero found guilty in Breckenridge assault case

Sawyer D’Argonne
sdargonne@summitdaily.com

Kevin James Romero, 31, was found guilty of second degree assault at the Summit County Justice Center on Thursday afternoon stemming from an incident in December 2016. The jury found that Romero was not guilty on the charge of obstructing telephone services.

It was a heated and emotional day in court as the alleged victim of the assault took the stand to testify in the case.

Romero was involved in an altercation with his roommate and intimate partner in her car on Dec. 21, 2016, and was arrested a couple days later in Denver. He was charged with second-degree assault — strangulation, a class 4 felony, along with obstructing telephone service.

Romero's accuser, represented by Johnny Lombardi, took the stand to give her account of that evening almost 18 months ago. The woman, whose name the Summit Daily News has chosen not to publish, said the two were living together in a rented house in Alma and splitting bill payments.

The woman testified that during their time living together Romero was controlling and manipulative, and that those characteristics carried over into the night in question. On the day of the incident she said Romero picked her up from work at around 7 p.m. with a stranger, and began banging on the window and yelling at her to get in the car. She described the incident as "terrifying."

She said Romero had lost the keys to her car, which he took along with her cellphone to go skiing for the day, and that's why he had arrived with the stranger. The two got into a verbal dispute in the car, at which point she said she feared for her life, and told the stranger her full name in case anything happened to her.

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The two picked up her car near the police station in Breckenridge some time later, where the woman said there was a struggle for the keys. According to the woman's testimony, Romero took the keys and got in the driver's seat of her car, but she refused to get in with him, fearing that he may try to crash the car or act out in some other way. At that point the woman called 911, but never spoke directly to police. Despite the testimony, it's unclear if she hung up the phone or if Romero forced her to do so.

The woman said that the 911 call angered him, and that Romero got violent. She said that he grabbed her by the back of the head and slammed her back against the seat. The prosecution was able to provide photographic evidence of her hair coming out at the Breckenridge Police Station following the incident. She said Romero then grabbed her around the neck with both hands and choked her for about five seconds. According to the woman, it was the sound of her opening her pocketknife in self-defense that made him let go. The prosecution also entered into evidence photographs of light bruising around her neck taken about an hour after the altercation.

She then stopped the vehicle, got out and screamed for help, according to her testimony. Romero fled the scene, and was picked up by Denver Police two days later. Romero represented himself in the trial, and chose not to testify.

Despite the case turning out to be relatively open and shut for the jury, which deliberated for less than an hour, the trial itself was lively. Judge Mark Thompson was forced to admonish both Romero and his accuser multiple times for outbursts and unnecessary elaborations in testimony. The prosecution also attempted to add a charge to the case mid-trial.

After the day's first recess, Lombardi informed the court that his client told him that Romero had uttered something along the lines of "you're going to jail" to her during the trial. Lombardi said the comment was on par with witness intimidation from Romero, though he didn't ask for a mistrial.

Romero was visibly shaken by the new accusations, and in turn accused Lombardi of unfairly targeting him, calling the accusation malicious prosecution.

"That's under investigation as to the comments he made," Lombardi said after the trial. Lombardi explained he's dealt with Romero once before on a different case that never made it to trial.

Romero was taken into custody and his bond was revoked following the conviction. He'll return to court on July 30 for sentencing.

"The defendant received a fair trial, and the jury was correct in convicting him on the felony charge," Lombardi said. "Of course we're disappointed they didn't convict on the misdemeanor. But the main charge against this defendant, we got the conviction."