Is Gator Ready For Prison Release?

by The Editors on December 16, 2019

The last time I saw Mark Anthony “Gator” Rogowski in person, he was dancing around on our “Some Guys Who Skate” doormat like he needed to piss. He’d knocked on the front door nonstop until he heard my hand on the knob. When I opened the door he bounced into the entryway saying, “Hi, I’m Gator.” I said, “Yes, you are.”

He was on the downside of his fame bubble, but still a pretty big deal in skateboarding. Gator called out past me for the skater he was hoping to visit. I don’t remember who it was. On not finding the person home, he said, “Ok, thanks,” and left as quickly as he had arrived.

I talked at Gator one more time two years later. It was the spring of 1991 and I was looking for a new place to live. My pro skateboarder landlord was selling the house we all lived in, and I’d heard that Gator, who lived in a plush condo near the beach, was looking for a roommate. Friends who had rented a room from him the summer before cautioned me that he was “kind of weird” about stuff, but his place was right where I wanted to surf, so I left a message on his machine. He never called me back.

Later that year, when Gator confessed to raping and killing 22-year-old Jessica Bergsten, I was horrified, shocked, and relieved that he’d never returned my call. In 1992 Gator was sentenced to 31 years to life in prison. Now, 27 years later, the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 Gator was recommended for parole.

The finding that the 53-year-old was suitable for release came on the third try for Rogowski, who long ago admitted killing Bergsten, a friend of his girlfriend, in his Carlsbad condo. His previous bids for parole were denied in 2011 and 2016.

Tuesday’s recommendation is the first step in the approval process. The state’s parole board has 120 days to review the case. If it moves forward, Gov. Gavin Newsom gets 30 days for review — and he if wants to, revoke it.

San Diego Deputy District Attorney Richard Sachs doesn’t want Gator released from prison, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We respect the board and the difficult decisions they have to make, but in this case we are very disappointed with the result, and feel he still represents a significant threat to public safety, particularly women,” the prosecutor said in an interview Wednesday.

Most people, Sachs said, “don’t have it within themselves to beat a young lady with a metal rod, handcuff her, cut her clothes off, rape her repeatedly, and murder her through suffocation.

“Most people don’t have it within themselves to do that. But he did. And anyone who can commit a crime like that — which is so horrific and monstrous in character — demands the highest level of scrutiny.”

It’s impossible to know for sure how these things should go. For most murderers I’ve felt it would be fair for them to leave prison just as soon as the victim returns home to their family, but I’m no professional. Maybe Gator is completely reformed. Maybe he is a new person who deserves another chance. We’ll see what the parole board says. They have 120 days to decide. For the rest of the story, please click the link.

[Link: San Diego Union Tribune]

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