Plea Agreement In Pembine HomicideIssue Date: July 31, 2019
Thanks to a last-minute plea bargain agreement, Gary R. Rogge entered a plea of no contest to an amended charge of first degree reckless homicide before Judge James Morrison in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 2 on Thursday, July 25.
Stressing that he is not bound by any plea deal at sentencing, Judge Morrison accepted Rogge's no contest plea to the lesser charge and scheduled sentencing for 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14.
The original First Degree Intentional Homicide charge carries a possible sentence to life in prison. Penalty for the reckless homicide charge can be up to 40 years in prison followed by 20 years on extended observation, but it can be much less.
There is to be a pre-sentence investigation, which takes 60 days. An entire afternoon was set aside for the sentencing because attorneys for each side are scheduled to argue for their sentencing recommendations and time will be allowed for family members on both sides to participate. Tentatively the sentence will include restitution to family members for the cost of Shelley's funeral and for lost wages, with the amount to be determined.
Rogge, 56, had originally been charged with first degree murder in connection with the shooting death of his wife, Shelley M. Erickson-Rogge, 63, at their Pembine home on Jan. 13. Rogge had pled not guilty to the murder charge, and a week long 12-member jury trial was scheduled to start on Monday, July 29. Selection of jurors was to take place on Friday, July 26.
There were nine Sheriff's officers, including Sheriff Jerry Sauve, in the courtroom for the 9:30 a.m. proceedings. Rogge was present, in shackles and wearing his orange jail garb. He has been held in Marinette County Jail in lieu of $1 million cash bond since his arrest in January.
Several members of the victim's family were present. Rogge was represented by Defense Attorney John D'Angelo of DePere. Representing the state were Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow and Assistant District Attorney Cody Marschall.
Morrison said he had scheduled Thursday's proceedings promptly after receiving a conference phone call late Wednesday from Morrow and D'Angelo informing him that a plea agreement had been reached. Morrow will file a criminal complaint with amended information on the negligent homicide charge and Rogge would plead no contest. Judge Morrison said he had to set this plea hearing quickly to avoid having 84 prospective jurors report to the courthouse on Friday for jury selection and then find out on Monday that the trial was canceled.
Before accepting the plea, Morrison asked or assurance that the crime victims' rights had been considered. Morrow said they had spoken with all three of his children plus her brother and they all agreed to this plea and the state intends to file an amended complaint with the negligent homicide charge.
"It is important for all of the parties to understand that this plea is in the public interest," Judge Morrison declared. He added that the District Attorney has wide discretion and a very recent case in which the judge refused to accept the District Attorney's recommendation had been overturned by an Appellate Court ruling that was critical of the trial court judge.
"I've been involved (in this case) since the night when this unfortunate incident occurred," Judge Morrison said, adding that he signed he search warrant that night, at home in his pajamas. He said he had seen the work done by investigators and Morrow's office, and declared, "I believe that the District Attorney and all the people working with her have demonstrated nothing short of a superb understanding of their responsibilities, and have treated this as a very serious case."
"A human life was lost, and we can't take that lightly," he said, but added there is a balance between the rights of Mr. Rogge on the one hand and of Shelley Rogge on the other, in regard to the amended complaint that Morrow will file, "I would not interfere because I think it is appropriate." He added the proceeding shows that if you commit a serious crime in Marinette County you will be prosecuted.
After asking questions to assure that Rogge had willingly agreed to the plea, that he understood a no contest plea has the same effect and penalties as a guilty plea, and that he understood he was giving up his rights to a jury trial at which all 12 members of the jury would need to find him guilty, and also that regardless of any agreement reached between defense and prosecuting attorneys, sentencing is up to the judge, up to the maximum penalty allowed. He ascertained that Rogge has a high school diploma and had been a truck driver for 17 years, and had never been treated for mental or emotional problems.
He said the state would need to prove, to the satisfaction of all 12 jurors, that Rogge had caused the death by criminally negligent conduct, had done an action that carried unreasonable and substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm, and that "your actions showed utter disregard for safety."
At one point Morrison had said Rogge would not be sentenced to probation only, and Morrow had pointed out that the sentence could legally be just that. "I'm going to consider any valid legal sentence," Morrison said. "I am not pre-judging." He said he had erred in saying the sentence would not be for probation only.
D'Angelo said he and Rogge had talked Tuesday night and again on Wednesday after getting the most recent offer from the District Attorney's office, and had discussed the pros and cons of his case before he agreed to accept.
Morrison asked if he could use the statements in the criminal complaint presented at the preliminary hearing as a factual basis to support the no contest plea, and D'Angelo said he could.
Morrison then accepted the no contest plea, found Rogge guilty of negligent homicide, and proceeded to set the sentencing date.
According to the criminal complaint, both Shelley and Gary Rogge had been drinking all day at a Pembine bar prior to the shooting and reportedly had a disagreement that led to her going home alone and him getting a ride there later from another customer.
He had told investigators they had been watching Westerns all day and were playing shooting games at home. He said he was showing her "quick draw" moves when he accidentally shot her with a .22 caliber pistol.
After performing an autopsy, Fond du Lac by Chief Medical Examiner Adam Covach said the gunshot wound to Shelley Rogge was fired from a .22 caliber pistol from close range, with the muzzle directly against her chest.
The couple had been living together for several years before being married in Las Vegas in April of 2018. The complaint states Rogge had told investigators she was the love of his life, and kept saying, "I can't believe this is happening. This is so stupid. I didn't mean to kill my wife!"
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