Many stories that we discuss raise concerns whether police officers and other public officials sometimes get advantages as criminal defendants. The case in Pennsylvania of former Scott Township police Chief James Romano has raised precisely those same concerns. Romano has agreed to a plea deal to admit that he had sex with an alleged victim and witness in a case that he was investigating. He reportedly told the witness not to admit to the sexual relationship and faces a charge of hindering prosecution. That is all pretty straightforward, but Romano has demanded that he not be actually sentenced for seven years to guarantee that he gets a pension. So far, it appears to be working.
In 2013, Romano was investigating sexual misconduct charges against a Lackawanna County high school teacher. He personally brought those charges. However, he then had a romantic relationship with the alleged victim during the investigation and told her that she was “his favorite victim.” When investigators called the woman, Romano sent her a text message saying “just remember nothing about me,” according to the criminal complaint. Later, the woman texted to him, ” . . . should I tell the truth?” to which Romano replied “It would kill me.”
Romano pleaded no contest to the charge and agreed to resign. However, he is 43 and will not get his pension until he is 50. Two judges have agreed to postpone sentencing on the misdemeanor count. He has insisted that he would want to withdraw his plea if his pension is in danger. He is not facing any jail time, only six months of unsupervised probation in Lackawanna County.
I have not seen such a delay for so long a period based solely on the concern over a pension. Most courts take the view that such collateral matters are left to the defendant to resolve and constitute the natural ramifications of a criminal conviction. Notably, it is not clear such a misdemeanor would even terminate such a pension, according to reports, even though it does constitute work-related violations.