Internal investigation clears NM prison official

June 29, 2012 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former New Mexico warden accused in a lawsuit of thwarting an FBI inquiry into an alleged rape of an inmate by a guard has been cleared by an internal investigation, New Mexico Corrections Department Secretary Gregg Marcantel announced Thursday.

Speaking at a news conference in Santa Fe, Marcantel said an internal investigation found that Anthony Romero acted appropriately as warden of the Central New Mexico Corrections Facility in Los Lunas during a federal investigation into the alleged rape.

Marcantel said the 40-year-old Romero, who was [auth] temporarily reassigned to special projects, immediately will return to his position as deputy director of adult prisons.

“Our professional standards unit found no evidence to support or corroborate the claims in the civil lawsuit as they relate to Mr. Romero’s conduct and decisions made as the warden of CNMCF at the time of the alleged sexual assault disclosure,” Marcantel said.

In fact, he said, interviews of witnesses employed by the department, as well as those in charge of the criminal investigation, show Romero “cooperated fully with the investigation and did not interfere in any way.”

Filed last month in Valencia County district court, the lawsuit alleges a now-retired captain at the state prison in Los Lunas forced the inmate into various sexual acts and threated him if he didn’t participate.

The lawsuit also said Romero revealed to others that an undercover agent was visiting the prison to look into the allegations.

The former inmate is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

But Joe Booker, deputy secretary of operations for the Corrections Department, said Romero acted appropriately during the federal investigation.

“I can tell you with my more than 30 years in the corrections field and having managed several prisons throughout the U.S., even at a federal level, that the safety of staff and inmates are first and foremost,” Booker said. “Therefore, Mr. Romero took the appropriate action.”

Booker said Romero notified law enforcement, protected the inmate and tried to find out about the alleged perpetrator.

New Mexico prison officials also recently announced a new anti-rape video required for all incoming inmates at state prisons.

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