By Linda Cicoira
After deliberating for about 80 minutes Thursday, an Accomack Circuit Court jury recommended that Roquan Leeteq “Kake” Rogers be sentenced to 12 years in prison for three counts of conspiracy.
Rogers is the young man accused of being the shooter in a 2017 murder-for-hire scheme that targeted an Eastern Shore Drug Task Force informant.
It was the second jury to consider terms for Rogers, who was 18 when Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson, and his then girlfriend, Desirae Smith, were shot in the Linhaven area of Painter. The transcript of the first trial was read to the second jury by Commonwealth Attorney Spencer Morgan, defense lawyer Curtis Brown, and Judge W. Revell Lewis III, who were reading their own words. Northampton Clerk of Court Traci Johnson, played the part of all the witnesses.
The first panel convicted Rogers of the conspiracy counts, but was deadlocked on nine other counts including attempted capital murder of the couple. A resolution of those charges has not been decided.
The first jury recommended a total of 17 years in prison for Rogers. However, when those jurors were polled, a man on the panel said he did not agree with the recommendation and the jury was discharged.
This time, according to court records, the jury recommended a year in prison for conspiracy to obstruct justice, six years for conspiracy to commit murder for hire, and five years for conspiracy to commit capital murder by a prisoner.
A presentence report was ordered. Sentencing was set for Aug. 8.
The recent proceeding was held in the Northampton circuit courtroom, which was said to be better suited for following COVID restrictions.
Testimony included 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.
Akeem Rogers’ trial was in October 2017, about two weeks before the shooting.
Both Nathaniel 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.
Defense lawyer 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.