Plea rejected in seven-felony case involving social media, underage girls
A Henderson man called off a plea deal in a seven-felony rape case Tuesday in Vance County Superior Court, rejecting a sentence of 24 to 30 years in exchange for a jury trial tentatively scheduled for May.
DeWayne Ivan Romero, 36, appeared before Judge Henry W. Hight Jr., who asked that he and Romero’s attorney Garey Ballance sign documentation on the decision.
Romero faces felonies charging that from February through May last year he lured an underage girl through Facebook contacts on the Internet. Two additional underage girls were involved with an incident charging that Romero transported the three without permission from guardians or parents.
One of the girls “was not released by the defendant in a safe place and was sexually assaulted,” according to an indictment document stated.
Assistant District Attorney John Hindsman said that he doubted the trial would be ready by the tentatively scheduled May date.
“I do not expect it will be tried in May,” Hindsman said.
According to Hindsman, the charges in the case have been modified from original indictments for the reason of correctly assigning charges with the alleged offenses.
The docket on Tuesday noted Romero, of 108-A Keene St., appeared on Tuesday for five felony charges of statutory rape of a minor, plus felony sexual exploitation of a minor, solicitation of a minor by computer and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.
The plea deal proceeded normally until when asked how he would plead, Romero indicated not guilty.
Hindsman said the docket record is not official, so he could not comment on whether it accurately reflected the adjustments made.
He added the plea deal would have been for Romero to accept guilt on one charge of statutory rape, with the mandatory state sentencing guideline applying the sentence of up to 30 years.
Court documents early in the case stated Romero enticed the 14-year-old rape victim through the online messaging, “to meet with the defendant for the purpose of committing the unlawful sex act.”
Prior indictments in the case charged Romero with kidnapping, transporting three named 14-year-old girls without permission and doing so with criminal intent.
The indictments did not charge the two other girls were sexually assaulted or raped.
The Henderson Police Department arrested Romero on Aug. 29.
The Vance County jail made Romero available from incarceration for the hearing, and he remained jailed pending a hearing in Superior Court scheduled for April 22 to handle motions and other matters before a jury trial begins.
The latest available court records noted Romero was held on $268,000 bond.
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