Fort Worth officer fired after jury finds him guilty of lying about use of force

December 11, 2019

A Fort Worth police officer accused of using excessive force on a hospital trespassing suspect and then lying about the encounter to grand jurors was fired Wednesday after he was convicted of aggravated perjury.

Officer Jon Preston Romer Jr. was terminated following the jury’s guilty verdict in Tarrant County’s 297th District Court, said Lt. Brandon O’Neil, a police spokesman.

Romer is to be tried separately on official oppression and making a false report charges in connection with the November 2016 incident, but the trial that began last week focused only on aggravated perjury. Romer was accused of lying to grand jurors about whether he told Henry Newson that he was under arrest for resisting before he punched him.

As they tried to determine if probable cause existed to pursue criminal charges in the case, grand jurors asked Romer repeatedly why they could not hear him say Newson was under arrest in the video recordings they reviewed.

Romer told the grand jurors that he was certain that he said it and that he could not help them understand why they did not hear it.

A sentencing hearing initially was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but a special prosecutor requested that a probation officer conduct a presentence investigation and prepare a report. The defense agreed, and state District Judge David Hagerman ordered the report. Sentencing will take place after it is complete, likely in early 2020.

Romer’s bond was revoked and he will be jailed until his sentencing. He will be sentenced to between two and 10 years in prison and faces a maximum fine of $10,000.

The charges against Romer stem from an incident on Nov. 5, 2016, in which he allegedly subjected Newson to unlawful mistreatment, arrest, and search and seizure, according to an indictment on the charge of official oppression. Romer’s accused of striking Newson with his fist, choking him with his hands and pushing him. Last week jurors watched a surveillance video of the encounter.

Though the verdict was not directly connected to the hospital fray, Newson, 23, said the conviction was justice.

“I’m glad that people just looked over it and kind of like disregarded the badge and just looked at him as a regular person. He kind of got treated like everybody else.”

The police department respects “the jury’s decision and have confidence in the due process of the criminal justice system,” O’Neil said.

“The Fort Worth Police Department remains committed to operating in a clear and transparent manner holding all employees accountable for their actions,” he said. “We will continue to partner with all available resources to prevent and reduce crime, build trust and create the safest city in the country.”

The department had placed Romer on restricted duty prior to the trial and he could not carry a gun or badge and did not have police authority.

Romer arrested Newson and charged him with resisting arrest and criminal trespass. The charges against Newson were dismissed in March 2017 at prosecutorial discretion.

Newson testified in court he was waiting at Texas Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth for his mother to pick him up when Romer approached him and put his hands on him. Newson said he did not touch the officer.

In court, Newson said, “He didn’t have any right to touch me.”

Romer, however, maintained that Newson was resisting arrest by tensing his muscles, spinning 180 degrees and planting his feet firmly.

The case’s special prosecutor, Russell Wilson II, said that what happened to Newson was a tragedy.

“The jury resoundingly condemned false testimony by police officers in situations that involve use of force,” he said. “It was an important statement for Tarrant County and for the State of Texas to let our officers know that we have an expectation of honesty, especially when it regards something as serious as the use of force.”

It is unclear when the trials for the other charges will begin.