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Inmate Alleging Wrongful Lockup Sues State of Utah

Inmate Alleging Wrongful Lockup Sues State of Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah prison inmate is accusing the state in a lawsuit of keeping him behind bars for a string of rapes he's been linked by DNA to but never convicted of.

Rudy Romero was sentenced to five years to life for aggravated robbery, and scheduled to be paroled July 27 after serving ten years of his sentence. But a month shy of that date, the state Board of Pardons and Parole notified him that he had been identified as a "prime suspect in several different sex crimes." Based on that information, the board rescinded Romero's parole date and set a July 2029 rehearing to next consider Romero's release from prison.

Romero claims the board is keeping him in prison because the statute of limitations on the rape allegations has expired, acting "as judge, jury and executioner" in the matter. He also claims the board has unfairly denied him an attorney.

"All of this being done without an adjudication of guilt or innocence and in violation of due process, equal protection and fundamental fairness," he writes in the complaint.

Board spokesman John Green said officials conferred with attorneys before deciding not to grant parole, and still believes Romero was provided "full due process" at all times.

Romero was identified as the so-called Parkway Rapist last spring after DNA evidence allegedly linked him to five of 13 unsolved rapes and abductions that occurred along the Jordan River Parkway between 1990 and 1993.

Romero names as defendants in the complaint Utah State Prison warden Clint Friel, board chairman Mike Sibbett, the state Department of Corrections and the state of Utah.

The case is the first of its kind in Utah and perhaps even beyond. It has raised the interest of the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union enough to investigate the wide discretion generally afforded parole boards in determining inmate release dates.

Director Dani Eyer said it's not clear that inmates have a constitutionally guaranteed right to be released short of their maximum sentence, even if a parole date was previously awarded.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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