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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jury Returns Guilty Verdict On Lesser Charge

   A jury has returned a verdict of guilty on a lesser charge against a Killen, Alabama, man charged with attempted murder in connection with a shooting at a state line biker club last August.

   Trial got underway Monday for 45-year-old Jeffrey Dwight “Do Right” Rogers of 215 Lauderdale 339, Killen. Rogers was arrested August 19, 2006, in the wake of an altercation at the Eternal Brotherhood of Gentlemen Bikers (“EBGB”) Club at 91 Old Jackson Highway, that resulted in injuries to Stephen Gerald “PeeWee” Clemmons, 48, of 256 Lauderdale 398, Killen. Rogers was arrested on charges that include assault with intent to kill and illegal possession of a firearm where alcohol is sold or served.

   When he took the stand on Monday, Clemmons testified that prior to the confrontation, Rogers had been living at the club for approximately 2 ½ to 3 months. He testified that Rogers had taken money, food and drinks and that the club had “went downhill.” In response, he said that club members called a meeting and appointed someone to tell Rogers to leave the club. Afterwards, he stated, Rogers moved out. District Attorney General Mike Bottoms told jurors, “This was his motive…He couldn’t take it when they got him out of his club and he was going to get it back no matter what it took.”

   At around 8:00 p.m. the evening of August 18, Clemmons testified that he went to the club along with his wife and sixteen-year-old daughter to “shoot pool and watch some TV.” They hung out, he said, until around 12:35 a.m. when his wife and daughter left.

   After they left, he stated, he sat down on a barstool and shortly he began to hear loud banging noises. When he rounded a corner, he said that he saw Rogers knocking items off the wall with a baseball bat. He stated that Rogers had a baseball bat in his left hand and a pistol in the right. He alleges that Rogers stated “I want your colors,” referring to a patch worn by all club members, then began striking him with the bat.

   Clemmons stated that he was struck in the head, knees and ribs multiple times before Rogers fired a single round which traveled through his chin and right shoulder, exiting through his lower back.

   Clemmons, who became disabled in the wake of a motorcycle crash some years ago, told jurors that after being shot he was able to run outside, get onto his motorcycle, and flee to nearby 43 Lounge where he sought help.

   Clemmons’ daughter Stephanie Clemmons testified that as she and her mother left, she noticed a “tall figure” near the gate. She stated that she was unable to tell who the person was.

   When he took the stand on Tuesday, Rogers gave a conflicting account of the events. He told jurors that when he pulled up at the club that evening the front gate was closed and the lights were off – which was unusual. He indicated that there was only one motorcycle outside, and that when he entered there were only lights turned on in the rear of the building.

   According to Rogers he was carrying his .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun in the waistband of his pants, (for which he has a valid carry permit) as is his custom, and he had not yet removed his motorcycle helmet. Music was blaring loudly, he said, and Clemmons came through the kitchen doorway.

   Rogers testified that he questioned Clemmons regarding why the lights were off and the gate was open, then asked if he was “back there cooking dope.” He said that Clemmons became irate and began striking him with his walking stick. He indicated that Clemmons struck him over the head twice, hitting his helmet and knocking out one of his teeth. The cane, he stated, broke over his helmet with the force of the second blow.

   Rogers told jurors that Clemmons then bent down and grabbed hold of his pistol with both hands. He indicated that they began to struggle over the gun. When he was unable to get the gun away from Clemmons, he said, he began to strike him repeatedly with the baseball bat. “I went to wearin’ his a__ out with it,” Rogers remarked, referring to the bat.

   Rogers said that Clemens finally let go of the gun after he struck him in the chin. He said he then pointed the gun at Clemmons and told him to get out. He testified that due to the struggle and the loud music, he had not realized the firearm had discharged until police officers questioned him about the shooting.

   According to Rogers, he locked up the clubhouse after the altercation. When his girlfriend pulled into the parking lot he said told her about the incident. She then took his handgun and went to a friend’s house. He stated that he stayed at the club because he knew he would need to “talk to Dennis Daniels.”

   Defense Attorney Stanley Pierchoski referred to a police photo of the scene that showed cups of water, baking soda, and other items on a table in the kitchen area. Rogers referred to the items as “All the things you need to make crack cocaine.”

   St. Joseph Police Chief Dennis Daniels took the stand late Monday afternoon. He stated that, although the gun was never recovered, they did confiscate a clip for a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson, a gunlock, holster, and twenty-two .40 caliber shells from Rogers’ girlfriend’s house. Confiscated at the scene of the shooting, Daniels said, was a spent .40 caliber cartridge, the spent lead bullet, Clemmons’ broken cane, and the baseball bat.

   Rogers claimed that Clemmons had also been armed with a handgun during the fracas. Daniels indicated that he did find a 9 mm handgun lying in a truck parked behind the club. That handgun, he testified, had not been fired.

   The defense brought in witnesses who testified regarding unrelated incidents in order to establish that Clemmons had a tendency to become violent.

   Jurors left the courtroom to begin deliberations at 3:31 Tuesday afternoon. They returned to the courtroom around 7:14 p.m. to pronounce their verdict. The panel found Rogers guilty on the lesser charge of attempt to commit voluntary manslaughter, and affixed a fine of $5,000. The Class D felony carries a sentencing range of between two and four years. Judge Robert Jones scheduled a sentencing hearing for Friday, June 29.

   Rogers has remained incarcerated since his arrest on August 19, with bond set at $250,000. Jones ordered that bond be reduced to $50,000.

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