Juan Roman spent over three decades as a dependable and decorated Miami police officer, ending his career as a spotter in the department’s helicopter unit.
But his service could not overcome the vileness of his crimes.
Roman, 57, downloaded over 500 videos of child pornography, including some depicting the “rape and torture” of small children, a prosecutor said. He secretly videotaped young kids in the bathroom of his home, engaged in explicit online video chats with underage girls — and also recorded himself fondling a 6-year-old girl inside his kitchen during a family gathering.
“Public service is public trust,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kobrinksi told a federal judge. “And the defendant violated that trust.”
A U.S. District Judge Lawrence King agreed, and sentenced Roman Thursday to 25 years in federal prison.
“He’s understandably stunned,” defense lawyer George Cholakis said afterward. “His family is stunned. I respect the judgment of the court. The judge gave us every possible leeway to present our case. In the end, the judge felt the acts themselves overshadowed everything we presented.”
Thursday’s sentencing capped a stunning downfall for Roman, who up until recently still counted many friends in Miami’s police department, where he had served for more than 30 years.
Roman spent the majority of his career on patrol, with the last five as a spotter for Miami's aviation unit. In that role, he received over 70 commendations — including for spotting a burglar, nabbing a man on a stolen motorcycle and doing a fly-over for the funeral of a Broward County deputy killed in the line of duty.
He was know around the department as “Batman,” even sporting a tattoo of the superhero logo. Roman retired in 2010, working briefly as a private investigator and still socialized with former and current Miami police officers.
But in August, investigators with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, the Secret Service and Miami Beach police honed in on Roman after his computer was flagged as having received illegal content. They raided Roman’s Biscayne Park home, seizing his computer and hard drive —which he had labeled the “Batcave.”
Photos on his laptop and hard drive showed him wearing a cape, a mask and Batman underwear in various posed shots. He was arrested on federal charges in August as agents combed through his files and found much more shocking content.
“He had the most child pornography downloads in Florida when they did the search warrant,” prosecutor Kobrinski told a federal judge during one court hearing last year.
But as agents dug more, they found the videos of him molesting a young girl, and covert recordings of other girls. Miami-Dade police re-arrested Roman, this time on state charges of lewd and lascivious battery on a child — a case that is still pending.
With so much evidence, Roman pleaded guilty to the federal child-porn charges, hoping to convince King to sentence him to just five years in prison, well below sentencing guidelines that called for between 21 and 26 years behind bars.
“Your honor, I’m curable,” Roman, shackled and wearing an olive jail jumpsuit, tearfully told the judge on Wednesday. “I am fixable and not a threat to society.”
Over fours days of recent court hearings, defense lawyer Cholakis sought to portray Roman as a “good cop” beset by domestic troubles that triggered his sex addiction and other disorders. After retirement, Roman said he came under great stress trying to care for aging and ailing parents.
Not that his previous record was unblemished. In 1993, Roman — who was going through marital woes at the time — was accused of masturbating in his car while watching a woman at an apartment building in Overtown. He told investigators then he had only lowered his pants to tuck in his shirt. Roman received only a reprimand.
But this week, a defense-hired psychologist testified that Roman admitted he had indeed committed the lewd act. The psychologist told the judge that willingness to accept responsibility made Roman an ideal candidate for sex offender treatment.
“He’s a good man. He just made a mistake,” his daughter Iris Roman, 37, told the judge. “He doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison for a mistake for which he needs treatment.”
But one 31-year-old woman — whose young daughters were secretly videotaped by Roman inside his home bathroom — wept as she asked that Roman be sentenced to the max.
“Any accomplishment he achieved in his life is meaningless,” she cried. “He took away their innocence and that’s something they’ll never get back.”