Grand jury declines to indict former Highland Park H.S. student on rape charge

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 7:50 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK – A Dallas County grand jury on Monday declined to indict Highland Park 19-year-old Ryan Romo on a charge that he raped an underage acquaintance following a concert in October. 

"I think he was just relieved," said Mark Senter, one of Romo's attorneys. "He was just glad it was over." 

Romo was arrested on Oct. 30 and charged with sexual assault of a child related to the Oct. 27 incident. According to an arrest affidavit, Romo and the girl, a 16-year-old acquaintance from school, ran into each other at a concert at the Palladium Ballroom. 

The affidavit said the two eventually ended up in the back seat of Romo’s Tahoe, which was parked outside his parents’ home. Romo was accused of having sex with the girl despite her pleas to stop. 

The affidavit says the girl’s mother took her to Baylor Medical Center of Plano for a sexual assault examination. The doctor reported that there were signs of intercourse and that “the trauma he observed appears to have been forceful.” 

In the end, prosecutors did not enough evidence for an indictment. 

Senter credits a four-hour polygraph test given to Romo, who defended the sex as consensual. Senter said it showed his client was telling the truth. 

“Here we had a he-said/she-said, and it appears that there might have been somebody jumping the gun,” Senter said of investigators. “Did they drop the ball? Maybe so.” 

He says investigators never bothered to get a statement from the high school student until after they arrested him in front of his University Park home. University Park police did not respond for comment. 

“He became a recluse,” Senter said of Romo.“He was terrified, it has traumatized him. He was an outgoing, athletic kid who basically didn't leave his house.”

The victim's mother, who is not being named to protect her daughter's identity, said she fears the no-bill decision by the grand jury will inhibit other rape victims from coming forward. Barring future evidence, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office says the case will not go to court.  

Senter said Romo hopes to soon return to Highland Park High to finish his senior year. But, he says, the charges have badly damaged the teen’s reputation and hurt his chances at getting recruited to play baseball in college.

“It’s a horrible setback for him. His signing date came and went,” Senter said. “This is akin to the kids who were seniors in New Orleans when Katrina came through. They lost their senior year.”

Email jbetz@wfaa.com

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