Mistrial a Possibility in Murder-for-Hire Trial Underway in Accomac

By Linda Cicoira
The possibility of a mistrial loomed at press time Thursday as testimony continued for a third day in Accomack Circuit Court in the murder-for-hire trial of Roquan T. Rogers, the young man suspected of shooting and attempting to kill a police informant last Halloween in the Boston area of Painter.
Defense lawyer Curtis Brown of Norfolk motioned Wednesday for Judge W. Revell Lewis III to rule the trial as invalid because it was disclosed to the jury that Rogers, who also goes by Kake, Cake, Young Sam, or Little Sam, 19, of Benjamin Banneker Road in Exmore, and his two brothers were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
The three were indicted on those charges in Northampton in May. Usually, a jury isn’t privy to hearing about suspicions that are not part of the charges being decided. In this case, there was a possibility those charges could be linked to the ones being tried.
Police and court records have concluded the murder scheme was fueled by cocaine distribution, revenge, money, and informant Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson, 31, who was shot three times while walking in Linhaven Circle with his girlfriend at the time, Desiree Smith, 19. She was hit in the foot by gunfire.
Johnson was the informant used by the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force to collect evidence against the defendant’s brother and another man, who was the mastermind of the murder scheme.
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.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan and former Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones were working together to prosecute Roquan Rogers. Morgan was doing the talking. He said the motive was revenge because Johnson testified against his brother, Akeem Rogers, earlier in October, and because he wanted the money that was offered for Johnson’s death.
Roquan Rogers pleaded not guilty to attempted murder of Johnson; using a firearm in the attempted murder; conspiracy to commit capital murder between August and November 2017; conspiracy to murder by a prisoner; attempting to intimidate or impede a witness; making threats against a witness; maliciously wounding Johnson and Smith; attempted murder for hire; murder for hire of another from a prisoner; and use of a firearm to maliciously wound Johnson and Smith.
Judge Lewis took the motion regarding the mistrial under advisement and said he would rule after the prosecution finished presenting its evidence. The debate about the possibility of a mistrial was not discussed in front of the jury or Steve Lewis, the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force officer who spilled the beans when he was asked by Morgan about his knowledge of the Rogers brothers.
Judge Lewis had the court reporter read that portion of the testimony back to the jury and told them to disregard it. He also struck it from the record. Steve Lewis said the conspiracy charges were brought against the Rogers brothers because of DNA and fingerprint evidence.
Brown argued that reading the testimony to the jury made it even more prejudicial. The defense lawyer said he didn’t blame Morgan for the answer Steve Lewis had given. Steve Lewis also was not present when the jury got the instruction and was brought back into the courtroom to finish testifying.
Thursday, Brown motioned again for the mistrial after a phone call between the defendant and Akeem Rogers (recorded because Akeem Rogers was in jail) was played for the jury. Brown contended that all the cursing in the conversation could prejudice jurors against him. Judge Lewis denied that motion.
Brown continuously talked over others and at one point was so disrespectful to the judge that it appeared he was scolded for it during a sidebar with the lawyers and judge. Brown was keeping true the promise he made at a bond hearing:
“I would tell the court this, we are going to fight this case nail and teeth.
“He’s never been in trouble before,” he said referring to Roquan Rogers. “That’s got to count for something. Attempted to go to school (at the Eastern Shore Community College), that has to count for something.”
On Wednesday the day ended in the middle of Cynthia Harmon’s testimony. Harmon, 52, of Parksley, now an inmate at Accomack Jail, was also charged in the scheme. She testified that she helped carry out plans for Johnson’s murder in conversations and text messages with her boyfriend and drug business associate, Evron Terrell Strand, 43. Strand was an inmate in Accomack Jail when the shooting occurred. Harmon and Strand are also accused of asking Aaron Jamarcus Bowens, also known as Easy and BOBO, 22, of Big Pine Road in Painter, to commit murder. Bowens was charged with being a part of the scheme.
Ironically, Johnson said he called Bowens before he was shot and asked for help because he was being followed. When Jones was still Northampton’s prosecutor he publicly accused Bowens of killing Terrell Devone Mason, also known as Juice, a 26-year-old father of eight who was gunned down several years ago through the window of an Exmore shed where neighborhood family and friends gathered to play cards.
That neighborhood in the New Roads area is where the Rogers brothers lived and where Smith’s father and grandmother live.
Court records also state that Keenan Jibrel Berry, 26, of Jermaine Lane in Parksley, and Harmon’s son, DeBrandon Pierre Harmon, 29, of Dennis Drive in Parksley, were also asked to kill Johnson for $3,000.
Cocaine, handguns, cash, and a digital scale were among the items seized from the house where the Harmons lived. Cynthia Harmon said she was testifying “because it is the right thing to do.” She said the prosecution did not make any promises in exchange for her testimony.
It was also disclosed that Johnson was paid for being an informant and was being supported by the police who are constantly protecting him. Smith testified that when she and Johnson were visiting a home in Boston the night of the shooting, Johnson kept asking a man who was only identified as Dewey for “mollies,” a drug that Steve Lewis said was like ecstasy. Smith could not remember if she had taken a pill the night the shooting occurred. She also initially said she didn’t know who the shooter was because she feared for her life.
Danny Lashawn Campbell Jr., 32, formerly of Wilson Court in Cape Charles, testified Thursday that he was in jail with Roquan Rogers and that Rogers confided in him details about the conspiracy for murder. Campbell was sentenced to 15 years in prison with all but four years suspended for distribution of cocaine and a third offense of assault and battery of a family member. The offenses occurred in September 2016 and June 2017. He also said no promises were made in exchange for his testimony.
Thursday, Cynthia Harmon was not brought back in to finish testifying. But there were plans for her to do so later in the day.

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