Jury empaneled in Roquan Rogers sentencing hearing in Northampton Circuit Courtroom

June 9, 2021

By Linda Cicoira

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An Accomack Circuit Court jury was empaneled Tuesday to recommend sentences for Roquan Leeteq “Kake” Rogers, the young man accused of being the shooter in a 2017 murder-for-hire scheme that targeted an Eastern Shore Drug Task Force informant.

The proceeding was held in the Northampton circuit courtroom, which was said to be better suited for following COVID restrictions. The scenes were acted out like a play with Accomack Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan and defense lawyer, Curtis Brown, playing themselves and reading from the original four-volume 2018 trial transcript.  Northampton Clerk of Court Traci Johnson portrayed the witnesses as she sat in the plexiglass enclosed witness box.

The initial jury convicted Rogers, who was 18 when the informant and his girlfriend were shot in the Linhaven area near Painter, of three counts of conspiracy. The panel was deadlocked on nine other counts including attempted capital murder of Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson and his then girlfriend, Desirae Smith.

That panel recommended a total of 17 years in prison for Rogers. A breakdown showed 10 years for conspiracy to commit capital murder for hire, five years for conspiracy to commit capital murder involving a prisoner and two years for conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. When those jurors were polled, a man on the panel said he did not agree with the recommendation and the jury was discharged.

It was unclear how the undecided charges would be handled.

At previous times, Brown has unsuccessfully argued for a mistrial and for bond for his client who has already served nearly four years in jail. Brown was opposed to Judge W. Revell Lewis III’s decision not to allow opening arguments.  He said he had misunderstood that finding and “stayed up half the night” writing new arguments.

Testimony this week will include statements that the informant was given money by the task force to buy cocaine from the defendant’s brother, Akeem Rogers. Johnson testified against Akeem Rogers and was set to attest to selling cocaine to Evron Terrell Strand, who was charged with being the mastermind of the murder-for-hire plot.

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Akeem Rogers’ trial was in October 2017, about two weeks before the shooting.

Both Johnson and Smith testified that Roquan Rogers was the shooter. Johnson was shot in the back and buttocks. He said he recognized the defendant that night by the unusual shape of his mouth, his dreads, and his body style. Smith said she saw his face when she turned to look and the flash of the gunfire illuminated him. Both said they knew him.

At Strand’s trial, Smith’s testimony was inconsistent with what she said at Roger’s trial. Brown said this was one reason for his asking for a mistrial. He was also upset that charges that were later not prosecuted against Roquan Rogers in Northampton County were mentioned during the trial. Brown argued that Strand attempted to hire several people to kill Johnson.

One of those men, Aaron Bowens actually accepted $1,000 for the job and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but five years of the term suspended.

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Four days were put aside for the new jury to hear testimony.


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