Clawson man will serve at least 4 years in prison for manslaughter

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 8, 2022




CLAWSON — The criminal case involving the city of Clawson’s first homicide since 2004 has concluded with the sentencing of 38-year-old Clawson resident Steven Alexander Rogers.

On May 17, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame Rowe sentenced Rogers on three charges — involuntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and first-degree home invasion — after Rogers had pleaded no contest April 11 in a Cobbs agreement, which gives a defendant some indication of what the sentence will be and the ability to withdraw the plea if the sentencing involves a harsher penalty than was indicated at the time of the agreement.

Rogers originally was charged with homicide — open murder, but under the agreement, the charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter, and Rowe agreed to sentence Rogers on the low end of the sentencing guidelines.

Rowe sentenced Rogers to 43 months to 15 years on the manslaughter charge with no credit, to run consecutive to the felony firearm sentence; two years on the felony firearm charge with 471 days’ credit; and 30 months to 20 years on the home invasion charge with 471 days’ credit.

“He’s got (a minimum of) a little over four years left,” said Joseph Lavigne, Rogers’ defense attorney, in a phone interview with the Royal Oak Review after the sentencing.

The criminal case stems from an incident in which Clawson police responded to a report of an assault at a home in the 200 block of Nakota Road at approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. Nakota Road runs west off Main Street and is south of 14 Mile Road. The report alleged that Rogers entered the home and struck a female occupant with a beer bottle, causing facial injuries that first responders treated at the scene.

Upon arrival, police reportedly witnessed Rogers walking out of the home and placed him under arrest. While in the back seat of a police vehicle, Rogers allegedly made comments that led police to search his home, located in the 300 block of Nakota Road.

Inside the home, police discovered a deceased man who was the victim of a gunshot. Police identified the deceased man as Christopher Ramsey, 35, of Warren. Police said they later learned that the two men were good friends.

Lavigne said Rogers testified that he and Ramsey were under the influence of psilocybin mushrooms and no other substances and that they got together that night to “support each other with what they were going through in life.”

During the preliminary examination, which took place before 52-4 District Court Judge Maureen McGinnis in June, Lavigne said the testimony of all three witnesses — the homeowner, a police officer and a detective — indicated Rogers was clearly under the influence of something.

“The homeowner said, ‘It was pretty clear he wasn’t in his right mind,’” Lavigne said. “He had made statements to the officer on the record about not thinking it was real, and during the home invasion, he said, ‘This is an interesting reality.’

“They knew that something was going on to the point where the police took him to the hospital,” he added. “He doesn’t have a clear recollection of anything, even to this day.”

From his first meeting with his client, Lavigne said Rogers was “far more concerned about his friend than what was going to happen to himself” and that, in his 26 years of practicing law, he was unsure if he had another client “be so remorseful.”

Following the preliminary examination, the case was bound over to the Oakland County Circuit Court, and Lavigne said the case was pending for a while due to COVID-19 and his trying to work out a resolution with the Prosecutor’s Office.

“He read a statement in court apologizing and accepting full responsibility for his actions,” Lavigne said and added that both his client and those gathered in the courtroom were crying.

He said that there were approximately 20 to 25 people present from both sides, with four individuals making victim impact statements to the judge and numerous other family members and others sending the judge letters.

“There were some very heartfelt statements about how much they miss Chris, how much his daughters miss him and how significantly his loss has affected them,” he said.

While one person testified that she would never forgive Rogers, another said “she felt badly for everyone involved, including Steve, because he has to live with knowing he killed his friend,” Lavigne said.

Prior to the incident, Lavigne said, Rogers had been working at Red Robin for 15 years, worked part-time for a music and entertainment company as a DJ for six years, owned his own house in Clawson, and was engaged to be married. He said he had a misdemeanor from the 1990s but no record of assault.

“These cases are always tough, and there are never any winners. It’s just a tragic outcome,” he said. “I think (the sentencing) is a fair recognition of the level of intent or lack of intent.”

Jeffrey Kaelin, the assistant prosecuting attorney, said he felt the sentencing was fair because it fell within legal requirements and took into consideration the facts that the criminal justice team was able to develop.

“This is one of the cases that sticks with you,” Kaelin said. “Everything I heard was that Chris was just a really nice guy. His family is just devastated. It’s a hard case for everyone.”