Less than 24 hours after a Dallas grand jury declined to indict Ryan Romo, 19, his civil attorney, Mark Senter, held a press conference about the case at Munck Wilson Mandala law firm. Before taking questions, Senter read a statement from the Romo family and said Ryan is looking forward to getting back in class at Highland Park High School, where he is a senior.
Romo was 18 years old when he was charged with sexual assault of a child. He admitted to having a sexual encounter with a peer after a concert in October but claimed it was consensual. On January 28, a grand jury did not find probable cause to pursue the case.
Senter likened the process of being charged with a heinous crime, and then ultimately cleared, to living through a natural disaster.
"This is akin to kids who were seniors in New Orleans when Katrina came through," Senter said.
While Senter did not represent Romo in the criminal proceedings, he did assist with the investigation and had knowledge of Romo's participation in a polygraph test. Senter said Romo was cross-examined as part of a four-hour polygraph on the topic of consent.
"He passed with flying colors," Senter said.
Senter was mum on potential civil litigation, saying only that he had represented the Romos from the outset of the case. When pressed, Senter did question University Park Police's decision to file charges even though they'd never questioned Romo before his arrest.
"Did they drop the ball? Maybe so," he said.
Senter said Romo has been a recluse since the charges were brought in October, and that he was extremely relieved by the grand jury's decision.
"I believe her version of what transpired in the backseat is not accurate," Senter said, adding that the damage to Romo's reputation is permanent. "I do not think you can undo the stigma. Not with the Internet."
On January 29, Senter released the following statement on behalf of the Romo family:
The Romo family is gratified and relieved to finally have this horrible nightmare behind us. We are happy that — in the end — truth and justice prevailed in the face of what was an absurdly false allegation.
In this terrible process, we learned that between 90 to 95 percent of all cases presented to the Grand Jury result in an indictment and criminal charges. Instead, in this case, Ryan has been cleared and for that we are truly grateful to the grand jurors who considered the evidence presented.
Only now, can we begin the process of putting our lives back together. As a family, we would like to express our sincere appreciation for the overwhelming support we received from friends, acquaintances, and even people we did not know that we encountered in our immediate community and throughout North Texas. We will never forget those who refused to jump to conclusions and waited for the truth to come out.