Shawn Rogers will spend the next 23 months behind bars for the 2004 shooting death of Brian Black in a Beluga tavern.
Superior Court Judge Larry Card, who served as judge pro-tem in the Kenai jury trial earlier this year, sentenced Rogers to five years in jail with 18 months suspended. The sentence could be reduced by one-third, or 14 months, for good behavior, and Rogers will receive credit for five months he has already served in jail two months following his arrest and three months since being convicted by a Kenai jury in March.
The jury found Rogers not guilty of first-degree murder as charged, but guilty of manslaughter in the death of Black.
Rogers, 34, of Kenai, was originally charged with one count of first-degree murder for allegedly shooting Black, 43, of Beluga, in Fat Albert’s Tavern and Bunkhouse July 26, 2004.
Defense attorney Chuck Robinson said Monday he plans to appeal both the conviction and the sentence.
“To me, the verdict and the sentence go hand in hand,” Robinson said.
“I feel we will win both (appeals),” he said.
Assistant district attorney Scot Leaders, who prosecuted the case, said he would have preferred a longer sentence.
“I guess the court imposed what it felt was appropriate,” Leaders said.
Card also sentenced Rogers to 10 years probation following his release, during which time he is not to have any contact with the victim’s family, he may not possess firearms, he must totally abstain from alcohol or any controlled substances, he may not reside where alcohol is served or enter an establishment that sells or serves alcohol as its primary business and he must complete a substance abuse evaluation upon being released from jail.
Rogers also was ordered to submit to an assessment of his mental health and was ordered to pay a $100 surcharge plus a $200 probation surcharge with $100 suspended.
He was taken back to Wildwood Correctional Facility following sentencing.
During the 3 1/2-hour sentencing hearing Monday, Robinson asked that certain statements in the pre-sentencing report be deleted to prevent the Department of Corrections from improperly classifying the prisoner.
He argued that reference to Rogers being jealous of his girlfriend, Kari Worth’s attention to other male customers as motivation for the shooting should be deleted.
Worth was the bartender at Fat Albert’s the night of the shooting.
During the trial, she testified that Rogers handed her his loaded 45mm semi-automatic pistol to place behind the bar for safe keeping. Later, as he said he was going home, Worth returned the gun to him, but instead of leaving, he remained at the bar and reportedly pointed it across the bar at Black.
As Black and other patrons approached Rogers to take the gun away, two shots were fired, one striking Black in the chest and severing an artery in his heart before lodging in his spine.
Robinson also asked that the pre-sentence report be amended to reflect that the jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Rogers shot Black it was alleged.
Card agreed with the change.
The defense argued throughout the trial that it was a struggle for the gun that caused it to go off, fatally wounding Black.
The state insisted that Rogers killed Black.
During the sentencing hearing, Leaders said, “We would not be here today if (Rogers) did not bring a gun into the bar; if he unloaded the gun; if he stepped out of the bar (as Black approached him).”
Leaders also said he found it “incredibly lacking that the defendant has not shown any remorse or accepted any responsibility for his actions.”
Robinson responded saying that at trial the state played a tape of Rogers crying in order to show he killed someone and he was sorry for the death.
“Now the state wants to say he never showed remorse,” Robinson said.
In considering the mitigating factors for sentencing, Card said, “Mr. Rogers had a loaded firearm in this bar; the jury found Mr. Rogers caused this incident; Mr. Rogers is responsible for the death of Brian Black.”
Card did find the crime to be the least serious degree of the offense of manslaughter.
“It is more closely related to criminally negligent homicide,” Card said.
In an open letter by Black’s mother, Sandra Black, to Rogers, read aloud in court by Leaders, she said her son “loved Alaska, he loved to hunt, to hike or just watch the animals.”
“I loved my son and miss him so much,” Sandra Black said in the letter.
Over the course of the five-week trial, Alaska State Troopers were criticized by Card for conducting a “poor” investigation and the judge said the prosecutor was negligent in not providing information to the defense in advance of trial.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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