Convictions on 3 of 12 Counts in Murder-for-Hire Trial

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By Linda Cicoira Roquan Rogers walks back to jail after first day of trial.

By Linda Cicoira

The suspected shooter in a murder-for-hire case was convicted by an Accomack Circuit Court jury Friday of three counts of conspiracy. The panel was deadlocked on nine other counts including the attempted capital murder of an Eastern Shore Drug Task Force informant and his then-girlfriend last Halloween in the Boston area of Painter. 

The six women and six men then returned to the jury room to debate sentences for the three convictions. Approximately an hour later, the foreperson said the jury recommended a total of 17 years in prison for Roquan Leeteq Rogers, who goes by Kake, Cake, Young Sam, or Little Sam, 19, of Benjamin Banneker Road in Exmore.

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 the jurors were polled, a male juror said that he did not agree with the recommendation.

Defense lawyer Curtis Brown then motioned for a new trial. Judge W. Revell Lewis III denied the request but agreed to accept a brief on the subject. Brown has 21 days to prepare and submit the document. Once the court receives it, Accomack Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan will have 10 days to respond.

Meanwhile, Rogers was taken back to Accomack Jail, where he is being held without bond.

Even if Lewis does not grant a new trial for the conspiracy convictions, Morgan could retry the other counts because the jury did not decide those. Morgan declined to comment Monday when asked what would be done.

Testimony disclosed Nathaniel “Nate” Johnson, 31, was the informant who was given money from the task force to buy cocaine from the defendant’s brother, Akeem Rogers, in Northampton County, and from Evron Terrell Strand, in Accomack County. Johnson testified against Akeem Rogers and was set to attest to selling cocaine to Strand, who was charged with being the mastermind of the attempted murder plot.

Akeem Rogers’ trial was in October 2017. About two weeks later, Johnson and Desiree Smith, 19, were walking in Linhaven Circle when they were shot.

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. 

During a short break in testimony, while Smith was on the witness stand, Judge Lewis accused an unidentified man in the gallery of attempting to intimidate Smith.

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.

Former Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones worked with Morgan to prosecute Roquan Rogers. Jones retired in December. He was the prosecutor at Akeem Rogers’ trial.

Three days were initially set aside for the trial, which ran into a fourth day. The tension was high in the courtroom with Brown objecting to many of Morgan’s questions to witnesses. Brown unsuccessfully attempted several times to persuade Lewis to declare a mistrial.

Cynthia Harmon, who was also charged in the murder-for-hire scheme, testified that she set up the hiring by Strand with Roquan Rogers and several others. She identified herself as Strand’s partner in the illegal business. Her son Debrandon Harmon was amount those asked to kill Johnson, she said. Cocaine, weapons, and cash were confiscated from her home.

The third Rogers brother, Rovonte Rogers, 22, of Exmore, was sentenced five years in prison Monday in Northampton Circuit Court to possession with intent to distribute cocaine. All three brothers are awaiting trial on cocaine related charges in Northampton from indictments filed in May.