Justice demands a harsh sentence

Steven Clay Romero may be the only person in this country who doesn’t “get it” when it comes to the grisly nature of the crime he is alleged to have committed — dragging a dog to death — last week on Colorado National Monument.

Romero told a federal magistrate last Thursday “I don’t get it,” indicating he didn’t understand why he was in federal court, just before he was presented with the charges against him.

As the letters to the editor on this page attest, people from this area and elsewhere get it. They are outraged at the depraved nature of Romero’s alleged crime and want to see the harshest possible sentence handed down if he is convicted.

The thousands of people who have signed a petition on Facebook also get it. They, too, want to see the maximum sentence and fine for the dog’s killer. In fact, their petition is called “Demand Justice for Buddy.” Buddy is the German shepherd mix that was found dead in a tunnel on Colorado National Monument last Wednesday, a portion of the rope that was used to drag him to death still around his neck.

We certainly get it. Buddy’s death was long and agonizingly painful. And the stolen dog must have been frightened beyond imagination, even before the sadistic death drive began. If Romero is found guilty, he deserves more than the three-year sentence and $100,000 fine allowed under federal law.

What we don’t get — what we find completely incomprehensible — is why anyone would intentionally decide to act in such a cruel and reprehensible manner to a defenseless animal. Not that we condone the needless killing of animals in any manner, but if the goal was simply to get rid of an unwanted, stolen dog, there were far more humane methods than the one Romero allegedly chose.

We also have questions — and no doubt many readers do, as well — about why Romero was not behind bars at the time of Buddy’s killing. He was arrested five times in 2009 prior to last week’s arrest.

We don’t know the details of all these arrests, so we’ll withhold judgment on the legal decisions that allowed him to remain free. But his most recent arrest, in September in Grand Junction, suggests at least the potential for violent behavior. According to police records, when he was arrested, he was found with three bags of methamphetamine and a sawed-off shotgun. He has been free on bond since then.

We were pleased to see that Federal Magistrate Laird Milburn was more cautious about returning Romero to the streets during his first court appearance last week, despite Romero’s complaints.

Milburn ordered Romero held without bond through the weekend. When Romero asked whether that meant he would be sitting in jail and possibly lose his job as a truck driver, Milburn responded by simply saying, “Yes.”

If Romero is convicted of Buddy’s killing and is also convicted other offenses stemming from his other arrests, we hope that the combined sentences will ensure he spends much longer in prison than three years.


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