Sentence upheld in dragging death of dog at monument

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a three-year prison sentence for a Grand Junction man convicted in the dragging death of a dog, rejecting an argument the sentence was too harsh because of his intelligence level.

Steven Clay Romero, 39, had claimed a judge had placed “too little weight” on a psychological evaluation that found Romero has “low intellectual function,” which partially resulted from a difficult childhood. Romero’s attorneys argued the evaluation’s findings should have been mitigation factors in handing down Romero’s sentence in July 2010.

The Court of Appeals cited portions of the same evaluation in rejecting the argument and upholding the sentence.

Romero, the court noted, was deemed “about as capable as most people of recognizing conventional modes of response and knowing what is expected of him in terms of socially acceptable and law-abiding behavior.”

The ruling was released Aug. 15.

U.S. District Court Judge Phillip Brimmer’s sentence was the maximum available after Romero pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals, which stemmed from the Dec. 30, 2009, death of a German shepherd mix. The dog was dragged to death behind Romero’s pickup as the vehicle ascended the west entrance of Colorado National Monument.

Romero had 10 prior felony convictions.

“When you get No. 11, you should assume that you are going to be given the maximum sentence regardless of the nature of the crime,” Judge Brimmer said at the July 2010 sentencing.

In Mesa County in May, Romero was sentenced as part of a plea agreement to six years in prison stemming from an unrelated arrest in Grand Junction on charges including possession of methamphetamine and possession of a weapon by a prior offender.

The six years were ordered to be served consecutive to the three-year term in the federal animal-cruelty case.


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