In the eyes of police, it was just another white lie, another minor fib to justify another violent arrest; an unscrupulous practice that takes place daily in police departments across the country with rarely any repercussions to the lying cop.
But this time it resulted in a Texas cop sentenced to five years in prison thanks to bodycam footage which contradicted the lie not to mention a young prosecutor fresh out of law school who refused to go along with the lie.
However, former Fort Worth police officer Jon Romer Jr. will remain free on bond because he is appealing the conviction of aggravated perjury, clinging to the hope that his Blue Privilege will carry more weight before an appellate court than it did before the judge who sentenced him to prison last month.
After all, the last thing he expected was the prosecutor to challenge his narrative and when she did, he became very angry at her, raising his voice at her on the phone in an attempt to intimidate her, according to her testimony in court.
But even after he had been indicted, Romer stuck to his story when testifying before a grand jury in 2019, claiming he had told a man he was under arrest before punching the man in the face – when bodycam footage shows he never told the man he was under arrest before punching him.
The incident took place on November 5, 2016 when Romer was working off-duty security at a local hospital and confronted a 20-year-old man named Henry Newson who was standing in the lobby of the hospital after being discharged as a patient.
Newson who had spent two nights in the Texas Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth with a case of food poisoning was calling his parents to come pick him up but for reasons police never explained, they found him to be “suspicious.”
Video evidence shows that Romer was standing to the side while another cop or security guard was interrogating Newson, demanding he tell them the name of the hospital.
But Newson said he had already told his parents the name of the hospital and was under no obligation to answer the question.
And that is what annoyed Romer who then began pushing and shoving him, telling him “let’s go” before punching him in the face and placing him in a headlock and swinging him down to the ground.
Another cop named Jeremy Flores and a hospital security guard named Jonathan Walterbach then piled on top of Newson before picking him back up and leading him outside where they sat him on a bench and surrounded him.
As Newson complained about being punched in the face, Romer placed his hand around Newson’s neck and shoved him backwards.
Newson was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest even though he had every right to be standing in the lobby of the hospital after being discharged as a patient.
Fort Worth police superiors did not see anything wrong with the arrest and forwarded the case to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office where it landed on the desk of Kate Gardner in March 2017, who had been on the job less than four months after graduating from law school the previous year.
Gardner who has since gone into private practice watched the video and determined that Newson had not committed a crime but she could not say the same for Romer. However, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald allowed Romer to continue working for another year, according to CBS-DFW.
Kate Gardner had been assigned to the trespassing and resisting arrest charges against Newson. She decided not to prosecute the case though, instead showing the video to her supervisor, and calling Romer to inform him of the decision.
“I said that I was not comfortable with this, that I didn’t want to move forward with it, and he was very upset by that,” she said. “It was basically, borderline just kind of getting yelled at on the phone.”
A source close to the case told CBS11 that District Attorney Sharen Wilson informed the city police chief at the time, Joel Fitzgerald, of her office’s concern over Romer’s actions.
It was another year though, March of 2018, before the department placed Romer on restricted duty, with no gun, badge or police authority. That came after a civil lawsuit had been filed as well as criminal charges against Romer.
During his trial in December 2019, Romer’s attorney tried to justify the punch by claiming Newson was “disrespectful” to the cops. A pair of Fort Worth commanding police officers also testified that Romer had every right to punch Newson because he had “tensed” his muscles after the cop started shoving him which is a natural reaction to being manhandled but it is used by cops daily to justify police abuse.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Fort Worth Police Capt. Shawn Stone, who testified directly after Sykes, said Romer may have placed his hand on Newson’s chest in order to get “his full and undivided attention.”
“Mr. Newson pivoted 180 degrees and planted his feet firmly and was in a position to strike,” Stone said. “All indications of active resistance.”
Once Newson makes the 180-degree spin, he is resisting arrest, Stone said. The distractionary strikes, such as the punch in the face, the arm bar to take Newson down to the ground, and the punches to the midsection that Romer and two hospital security officers delivered while Newson was on the ground, were intermediate uses of force, according to Stone.
“So all you have to do is tense your muscles?” Wilson asked.
Sykes replied “yes,” that tensing your muscles was enough to indicate resistance. Sykes also added that the Fort Worth Police Department has policies and procedures in place to protest what a person perceives as an unlawful arrest, but protesting the circumstances of an arrest should never be done while the arrest is taking place.
“You do not have a right to resist arrest even if the arrest is unlawful, according to the resisting arrest statute in the penal code,” Sykes said.
The grand jury convicted him anyway in December 2019 which was when the Fort Worth Police Department fired him. It would be another 18 months before he was sentenced.
During that time, Romer filed a lawsuit against the city over wrongful termination as well as an appeal over his conviction, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both are still pending.
Romer had the option of choosing between a judge or jury to sentence him so he chose to have District Judge David Hagerman sentence him who handed him a five-year sentence on May 26.
Romer had been on the force for 16 years so it is a safe bet to assume he is accustomed to getting his way through through intimidation and violence and dishonesty, confident that he would remain protected by his Blue Privilege.
After all, it was his Blue Privilege that protected him in 2013 when a judge granted him qualified immunity in a case where he shot and killed a man in a car during a misdemeanor traffic stop after claiming the man had driven off with his arm trapped in the window, dragging him into the roadway and making him fear for his life.
But the lawsuit claimed Romer ran after the car after it had started moving, hopping on to the sideboard before firing 12 shots inside the car as the victim’s three children sat in the back seat and another man sat in the passenger seat, who ended up bailing out of the moving car to avoid getting shot but was grazed by a bullet anyway.
Newson has a pending lawsuit against the city, hospital and cops. Watch the video below.