Detective-Constable Remo Romano, a York police officer, will be headed to trial for a third time on charges of dangerous driving causing death for the killing of 18-year-old pedestrian Natasha Carla Abogado in February 2014. Romano (45) was on duty and behind the wheel of an undercover police pickup truck when he struck Natasha Abogado as she attempted to cross St. Clair Avenue East around 8 PM.
Romano was traveling at a speed of least 109 kilometers per hour in a 60-km/hr zone. He was reportedly trying to catch up to other members of his surveillance team, not I active pursuit of anyone.
Romano was tried in May 2016, but a jury was did not come to a unanimous verdict after a few days of deliberating, resulting in a mistrial. Romano was tried again in September 2016 and a jury acquitted him of dangerous driving causing death. Following that decision, the Crown prosecutor filed an appeal, citing issues with the way in which the judge directed the jury to come to its verdict (Beattie 2017).
On September 28, 2017, a panel of three court of appeal judges agreed with the Crown and ordered a new trial. They found that the trial judge, Justice Brian O’Marra, did wrongly explain the dangerous driving law to the jury. Specifically, the judge incorrectly instructed the jurors not only to focus on how Romano’s actions as a driver caused Abogado’s death, but also how the victim Abogado herself might have been at fault (Beattie 2017). Another case of victim blaming to excuse or justify a police killing of a civilian.
Justice David Paciocco said in his decision: “Most significantly, the trial judge made irrelevant and adverse comments about Ms. Abogado’s conduct” (quoted in Beattie 2017).
Incredibly, according to Paciocco, O’Marra instructed the jury to consider that Abogado was jaywalking and described that as an “inherently risky activity” (despite the fact that people do it all the time without harm) and that “pedestrians must be aware, when they jaywalk, that drivers are not always paying attention, not always concentrating on what is going on ahead of them” (quoted in Beattie 2017). Even more O’Marra took a page out of the “what was she wearing” playbook for dismissing women victims of crime, and argued that Abogado’s clothing was dark and had “poor visibility” at the time of the collision (Beattie 2017). This was simply a replay, and reinforcement, of the Romano legal team’s defense ploy to get their client off.
The appeals decision noted that these statements turned the jury’s attention away from the central issue of whether or not Romano’s driving was itself, in fact, dangerous (Beattie 2017). By then the damage had been done to the Crown’s case. Concluded Paciocco: “The errors in the charge … are sufficiently serious that the jury was not in a position to evaluate properly the dangerousness of the operation of the motor vehicle, leading to a miscarriage of justice” (quoted in Beattie 2017).
At the second trial, Crown prosecutor Philip Perlmutter pointed out that Romano operated his vehicle at such a high rate of speed that it became impossible for him to adjust his driving in the event that something unexpected happened (Beattie 2017). Even more, his speeding was entirely unnecessary and unjustifiable according to the Crown. The surveillance operation that Romano was part of was only focused on intelligence-gathering and, as such, was neither dangerous nor urgent (Beattie 2017). It should never have resulted in the death of an innocent young woman.
York Regional police have confirmed that Detective-Constable Remo Romano is still an active officer on the force.
Beattie, Samantha. 2017. “Third Trial Ordered for York Cop Previously Acquitted of Dangerous Driving Causing Death.” Toronto Star. November 3. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/03/new-trial-ordered-for-york-cop-previously-acquitted-of-dangerous-driving-causing-death.html