The department’s Professional Standards Unit announced the investigation’s completion at a news conference Thursday in Santa Fe, according to a news release from the department. Romero, who was reassigned last month pending the results of the probe, will return to his position as deputy director of adult prisons.
Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel launched the investigation in May after attorney Matthew Coyte filed a lawsuit on behalf of former inmate Kenneth Morgan in state District Court in Valencia County.
The lawsuit names as defendants Kenneth Carrejo, a former captain at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, and Romero.
It alleges excessive force, along with violations of due process and equal protection, and that Morgan’s treatment rose to the level of cruel and unusual punishment. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Carrejo has retired from the Corrections Department.
According to the lawsuit, Carrejo raped Morgan several times in 2011, including at least twice while Morgan was handcuffed. An FBI agent agreed to come into the jail to get DNA evidence that Morgan had collected.
But, according to the lawsuit, a Corrections Department employee got wind of the undercover operation and told Romero about it. Romero then called State Police, which sent Carrejo’s two brothers – who are officers with the department – to question Morgan.
In its response to the lawsuit, the state said Romero was aware the FBI agent had assumed a false identity, but he did not know it was an undercover operation. Moreover, Morgan did not tell Corrections Department officials who had allegedly raped him.
Coyte said in a statement Thursday that the Corrections investigation into Romero’s role isn’t enough.
“There needs to be an independent and neutral investigation into this incident,” he said. “It is not acceptable for the Department of Corrections to investigate itself and conclude they did nothing wrong.”
Romero cooperated with the investigation, Marcantel said Thursday, and a criminal investigation of the alleged rapes is ongoing.
He said internal inquires also are ongoing to determine whether any other Los Lunas prison staff were aware of the alleged rapes prior to the FBI’s visit to the facility.
“Should either of these inquiries reveal evidence that Mr. Romero failed to appropriately act upon his knowledge in the matter, obviously, appropriate administrative action will result,” Marcantel said. “Until such time though, Mr. Romero should be considered exonerated of the allegations.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal