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Defendant pleads guilty to manslaughter in grad party shooting case

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 17, 2019

 Amer Mongogna, pictured here as his trial began in Macomb County Circuit Court April 30 in the killing of Luke Filary at a graduation party in 2017, pleaded guilty to manslaughter May 16.

Amer Mongogna, pictured here as his trial began in Macomb County Circuit Court April 30 in the killing of Luke Filary at a graduation party in 2017, pleaded guilty to manslaughter May 16.

File photo by Deb Jacques

MOUNT CLEMENS — Amer Mongogna, the 21-year-old suspect in the shooting death of 18-year-old Luke Filary at a graduation party in Roseville in 2017, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of felony firearm May 16 in 16th Circuit Court.

Mongogna was charged with second-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, carrying a concealed weapon and two counts of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection to Filary’s death in the street outside a graduation party in 2017. The prosecution said Mongogna pulled out a gun during an altercation at the party and fired several shots, one killing Filary.

Mongogna’s attorney, Shawn Smith, reached a plea agreement with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, which Smith said was a fair resolution to the trial.

“When I started this trial, I thought manslaughter would be a fair result,” said Smith. “This kid didn’t intend to kill anyone that night. He did something reckless by shooting. Somewhere in the middle of the trial, I started to switch focus and consider the possibility that there was a possible ricochet. Eventually, we were able to reach a compromise (with the prosecution). I talked about it with my client, and we thought this was the best option for justice. He feels extreme remorse for what happened.”

The agreement seemed sudden; however, Smith said this was the natural resolution for the proceedings, and he praised the Prosecutor’s Office and Judge Carl Marlinga for their professionalism in the matter.

“The trial lawyers are two of the most professional lawyers I have ever worked with. Bill Dailey and Philip Jacques are excellent attorneys, and they are how every prosecutor should act. They have integrity and professionalism like I’ve never seen before. … Judge Marlinga is one of the best judges I’ve ever tried a case in front of,” Smith said.

The plea was announced just days after Smith brought forth allegations regarding a potential conflict of interest during the investigation of the shooting.

Smith said he received an anonymous phone call during the course of the trial from someone claiming to be a member of the Roseville Police Department accusing James Berlin, who was the chief of the Roseville Police Department at the time of the initial investigation, of influencing the department to hide evidence.

The supposed hidden evidence included two pistols that were located at the Roseville home where the party was being held that were not taken into evidence by the investigators because they did not search the home. One weapon, a .22-caliber pistol, was not investigated by police until weeks after the incident, and the other, a .357-caliber pistol, was not investigated until May 2019.

Smith alleged that Berlin’s longtime friendship with both the father of the victim, Glen Filary, and the owner of the home outside of which the shooting took place, Gregory Keys, caused him to influence the investigation. Smith speculated that Berlin’s friendship could have led Berlin to order that the home not be searched in an attempt to influence the investigation. Smith also said that Berlin was present at the party, but left hours prior to the shooting.

“He was at the party, he was old friends with the father of Luke Filary, and the members of the Roseville Police Department knew about this connection,” Smith said during the trial. “It’s no stretch of the imagination to think this could have influenced the investigation.” 

Berlin said he was at the party earlier in the day, but he vehemently denied the allegations when he took the stand May 14.

“I drove to the scene (of the crime) but didn’t investigate the scene,” Berlin said. “I informally recused myself from the case to prevent ending up in a situation like this one. I didn’t want my personal relationships to be seen as a factor. … I didn’t instruct anyone on the case to look for, or not look for, anything.”

In addition to James Berlin, his brother and current Roseville Deputy Police Chief Mitchell Berlin, who was a lieutenant at the time of the shooting and who also was friends with Glen Filary and Gregory Keys, was interviewed on the stand, as was Roseville police administrative assistant Christine Wityshyn. Both were mentioned in the anonymous call to Smith’s office. Both gave testimony that concurred with James Berlin’s.

Smith filed for a mistrial because of the personal connection between James Berlin and parties related to the case, but Marlinga denied the request.

“A mistrial is only declared if a situation prejudicial to the defendant can’t be removed in any other way, and I’m not there yet,” Marlinga said. “I would need to see some sort of link between Gregory Keys’ home not being searched and some direction by Roseville police members.”

Marlinga did, however, approve requests by the defense to review the emails and texts of both James and Mitchell Berlin that contain particular key words such as “Filary,” “Mongogna” and “Keys.” He also stated that Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System data from the Roseville Police Department also could be reviewed to see if James Berlin logged into the system to look at the case file, which he said in court that he never did throughout the course of the investigation.

Smith also asked for an extension of time to review additional evidence, but that request also was denied.

“I am not going to delay this trial,” Marlinga said. “If any information is found, it can be used as the trial progresses on during the appeals process.”

Smith said his office had not been able to review the CLEMIS and text and email records prior to the time of the plea.

Mongogna’s sentencing is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, and a sentence of 12-17 years is expected. Mongogna has been in jail for 21 months, which will count toward the sentence.

“There are no winners in this case,” Smith said. “A family lost their young son. My client knows of their pain and he is taking responsibility for his actions. I have an 18-year-old son, and every day I walk into that courtroom, I think about how the family was affected by this loss.”

Dailey was unreachable for comment prior to publication.

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.