Lawyers for Bryan Rogers, a Madison man charged by federal authorities with sexually exploiting a 14-year-old Tennessee girl found at Rogers’ home last month, wrote in a court filing Monday that Rogers believed he was acting in the girl’s best interest to save her from continued sexual abuse in her hometown.
Marcus Berghahn and Jonas Bednarek wrote in a motion filed Monday that Rogers, 31, and the girl packaged a letter written by the girl with a video recording of the girl being sexually abused by a man back home, drove it from Madison to St. Louis in late January and mailed it to the FBI field office in St. Louis.
The motion asks that Rogers be released from custody pending a trial in the case.
A criminal complaint filed on Feb. 4 by federal prosecutors does not mention the FBI as having received such a package. Instead, it states that investigators found the recording on Rogers’ computer, which was seized from his home after his arrest.
The complaint alleges that Rogers urged the girl to make the video recording and send it to him so that he could turn it over to authorities. The complaint states that investigators found the recording on Rogers’ computer.
The girl disappeared from her home in Madisonville, Tennessee, on Jan. 14. According to the complaint, Rogers told investigators that he picked up the girl and drove her to Madison, where she remained until police found her at his home on Jan. 31.
Monday’s motion states that the home belongs to Rogers’ mother, who was unaware that the girl was at her home. City property records indicate the home is in the 3200 block of Basil Drive, on Madison’s North Side.
A preliminary hearing for Rogers is scheduled Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
“Rogers believes the evidence that will be elicited at the preliminary hearing will show he acted under a belief that he was acting in the minor’s best interest” to save her from sexual abuse, the motion states. “(Rogers’) purpose in obtaining the video recording was to obtain evidence that was to be used against” the man now charged with sexual assault against the girl.
“That the recording was sent by Bryan Rogers (and the minor) to the FBI is the clearest indication of his (and her) intent in possessing the recording,” the motion states. “The recording was not further distributed.”
While Rogers’ action “reflects a flawed understanding of the law,” the lawyers wrote, it may allow the court to conclude that “the circumstances of the alleged offense are mitigating.”
Because of the charge he faces, the presumption under federal law is that Rogers would remain in custody until his trial, the motion notes. But Rogers has strong ties to Madison, his lawyers wrote, and the government’s position on his detention “does not consider that Rogers’ intent was to save (the girl) from” sexual abuse.
Rogers has no prior criminal record, the motion states. He is a 2005 graduate of Lodi High School who then lived and worked for several years in the Wisconsin Dells area. In 2013 he moved in with his mother while attending Madison College, and then UW-Madison, where he received a degree in December in atmospheric and oceanic sciences.
Rogers’ lawyers wrote that he is an avid “storm chaser” who worked as a weather intern for a Milwaukee television station in 2017, and that his photos have been seen on local television and the Weather Channel. Most recently, the motion states, Rogers had started a job with FedEx.