Courts • Grand jury indicts Roberto Roman, who was acquitted in state court last year.
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A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Roberto Miramontes Roman who was acquitted in state court of aggravated murder on a charge of intentionally killing a Millard County Sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop made as part of a drug investigation.
The 11-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court accuses Roman, 41, of various crimes leading up to and related to the shooting of Josie Greathouse Fox in January 2010.
Those charges include one count of killing a law enforcement officer while fleeing apprehension on a felony drug violation, one count of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence (killing Fox), three counts of distribution of methamphetamine, three counts of possession of a firearm while drug trafficking, one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts related to immigration violations.
"We are very mindful that the men and women in law enforcement put themselves at risk every day to protect our lives," said David Barlow, U.S. Attorney for Utah, during a press conference Thursday. "Too many die each year in the line of duty. Unfortunately, Utah is not immune from those tragedies."
Barlow said the federal charges are not "double jeopardy," nor is it a do-over of the case, but rather, the indictment was an indication that federal interests were not resolved in state court proceedings against Roman.
"The state government and federal government are always free to pursue their own prosecutions," he said.
Roman allegedly initially confessed to killing Fox after she pulled over his vehicle around 1 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2010. He later recanted and, during a state court trial in August 2012, Roman claimed another man the deputy's brother shot Fox with an AK-47. Deputies had been tailing the two for several hours as part of a drug investigation.
A 4th District Court jury acquitted Roman of the aggravated murder charge for allegedly killing Fox, but found him guilty of two lesser third-degree felonies tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm by a restricted person. He was sentenced in October 2012 to two consecutive zero-to-five-year prison terms.
At a parole hearing in February, a hearing officer for the Utah Board of Pardons asked Roman whether he felt he got away with murder and said the subsequent suicide of Fox's brother Ryan Greathouse prior to trial "gave you a bit of an out at the trial." The board subsequently said Roman will serve out his entire 10-year sentence and be released in 2022.
Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker, who attended the Thursday press conference, said his office is assisting federal prosecutors. He declined to second guess the state jury's decision.
"The [state] jury did the best they could," Dekker said. "We were surely disappointed. I don't think I've ever been so deflated in a professional sense."
Dekker said the federal charges have given his office hope that justice will be served for Fox's death.
"I want peace for her family," Dekker said. "For her immediate family, for the sheriff's office family, and for the community."
Barlow said prosecutors will be able to draw on the state investigation and trial evidence as well as additional work by federal investigators in building a case against Roman.
In federal court, Roman faces a potential life sentence on several of counts if convicted, including the allegation he intentionally killed Fox as she acted in an official capacity. Several of the firearms charges also carry potential penalties of life in prison.
The drug distribution counts each carry a potential maximum penalty of 20 years, but federal prosecutors said they will seek to increase that to 30 years. The immigration violation counts each carry a potential penalty of 20 years in prison; Roman is a citizen of Mexico and was deported from the U.S. in September 2005.
Federal prosecutors expect Roman to be scheduled for an arraignment within a few weeks.