COP GUILTY IN DEATH OF TEEN

Community News & Features Jan 26, 2018 at 5:25 pm
Carla Natasha Abogado died last February 12, 2014

Carla Natasha Abogado died last February 12, 2014

‘DANGEROUS DRIVING CAUSING DEATH’

By Mila Astorga-Garcia
The Philippine Reporter

TORONTO–A 12-person jury has found a York Regional Police officer guilty of “dangerous driving causing death” in the case involving 18-year old Natasha Carla Abogado. The jury decision was read before a Toronto court presided over by Superior Court Justice Todd Ducharme last Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

Det.-Const. Remo Romano was on duty driving an undercover pickup truck as part of a surveillance team when his vehicle fatally struck Abogado as she crossed St. Clair Ave. East at around 8 p.m. on February 12, 2014. He was travelling at a speed of 115 kilometers per hour in a 60-km zone – with no emergency lights and siren — trying to catch up with members of his surveillance team, the court was told.

Abogado was on her way home from a part-time job, just got off the bus, and crossing toward her family’s townhouse when she was struck.

This was the third trial of Romano, where he again provided a not guilty plea for “dangerous driving causing death.” The first trial in May 2016, resulted in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a verdict.

The second was in Sept. 2016, when a jury unanimously found Romano not guilty of “dangerous driving causing death.” The Ontario Court of Appeal, however, ordered a retrial over what the court considered flaws in the way the judge had briefed the jury.

Det.-Const. Remo Romano

Det.-Const. Remo Romano

In this third trial, Judge Ducharme explained to the jury the need to stick to the facts of the case as he summarized the facts presented, following the summary arguments and closing statements of both the defense and the prosecution.

Defense lawyer Bill MacKenzie, in his closing statement, focused on the fact that the Highway Traffic Act allows police officers to exceed the posted speed limit in the execution of their duties. He said Romano was trying to catch up with his team doing undercover surveillance investigation into a series of non-violent commercial break-ins where thieves made off with over $500,000 in cosmetics and perfumes. The vehicle Romano was driving was one of six unmarked police vehicles tailing a suspect.

On the other hand, the prosecution, represented by Crown lawyer Mabel Lai, emphasized that public safety, more than the need to catch up with surveillance work which did not involve a life-threatening urgent situation anyway, was the more compelling issue to consider. Thus driving with highway speed rates of 115 km. per hour, along a neighbourhood street with a stipulated 60 km per hour limit, with residential houses on one side, a hospital on another side, near a busy intersection with two bus shelters on both sides and therefore a high presence of pedestrians, is dangerous driving, Lai maintained.

Reached at their home for an interview after the verdict, the Abogado family – Carla’s father Guillermo Abogado, brother Carl and sister Paula Abogado – graciously expressed relief after their ordeal of having to attend three trials in the years. (Mrs. Abogado was not present during the interview and throughout the trial as she has been in the Philippines attending to her ailing 91-year old mother who is in a critical health situation.)

“We feel relieved as this process has been going on for so long…now our family has a chance to start a new life,” says 17-year old Paula, the youngest of the Abogado siblings.

“We still feel pain obviously, as this does not bring Carla back,” 18-year old Carl says.

”I wish my wife were here,” says Guillermo, who was eagerly waiting for daytime to arrive in the Philippines so he could personally share with her the good news (Philippine time is ahead by 12 hours to Canada’s Eastern Standard Time). “I am still sad that Carla is no longer with us,” he says.

Abogado family – Sister Paula, father Guillermo and  brother Carl at their home during The Philippine Reporter interview

Abogado family – Sister Paula, father Guillermo and brother Carl at their home during The Philippine Reporter interview

The family feels vindicated, especially that there were earlier insinuations coming from the other side that Carla was depressed and suicidal, which Abogado said had no basis at all as Carla was a happy person. Also there was the suggestion that she was using a cell phone, which was found to be untrue, upon investigation.

“We miss Carla because she was like a second mother to us,” Carl says explaining that with both their parents at work, it was Carla who was there for him and his sister, Paula. “She would help us in our homework and always wanted the best out of us,” he adds.

“She taught us how to pray the rosary. Although it was our parents who taught us good manners, she would still teach us how to behave. She was a disciplinarian, but she was also our best friend,” adds Paula.
The Court will set a date in March 2018 for the sentencing.