Rep. John Rogers pleads not guilty to federal obstruction of justice charges

Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, speaks during the session of the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Stew Milne for Alabama Reflector)

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector

Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, pleaded not guilty Thursday to two counts of obstruction of justice on Thursday at the Hugo L. Black Federal Courthouse in Birmingham.

Rogers was released after being processed by the U.S. Marshals on a $5,000 bond. Prosecutors allege that Rogers diverted public money from a youth baseball league to an assistant.

The state representative will need to surrender his passport, but he told Magistrate Judge Staci G. Cornelius Thursday that he had not left the country in 10 years and may not have one. If he is able to find the passport, he is to turn in it to his probation officer.

Rogers will be allowed to travel within the state of Alabama because he is still serving as a state representative. Under Alabama law, a conviction or plea to either of the charges would automatically remove Rogers from office.

Rogers also may not open any new line of credit as part of the conditions, and he must turn in a gun he previously indicated was lost.

“I don’t own a firearm,” he said, interrupting Cornelius as she was reading the terms of the bond, in which it said that he previously owned a firearm but may not know where it is.

The indictment accuses Rogers, who has served in the Alabama House for over 40 years, of directing hundreds of thousands of dollars for public projects in Jefferson County to a youth baseball league, with a portion of the money being kicked back to Varrie Johnson Kindall, an administrative assistant the indictment accuses Rogers of having a romantic relationship with.

Prosecutors also accused Rogers of attempting to convince a person identified as “Individual #1” to give false information to criminal investigators, with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) looking into the transactions.

Rogers has served in the Alabama House for over 40 years. His indictment comes months after former Rep. Fred Plump, D-Fairfield, the director of the Piper Davis Youth Baseball League, pleaded guilty to similar charges over the use of public money.

In late May, the Department of Justice (DOJ) accused Plump, a freshman representative, of taking money from the Jefferson County fund under the direction of another Jefferson County legislator identified as “Legislator #1” and kicking back a portion of it to a legislator’s assistant.

Rogers said at the time he was “probably” the unnamed “Legislator #1,” but maintained his innocence.

According to the indictment, between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2022, Rogers was allocated approximately $500,000 by the Jefferson County Community Service Fund for Jefferson County programs. Prosecutors accuse Rogers of moving approximately $400,000 of those discretionary funds to the Piper Davis Youth Baseball League. In turn, Plump gave approximately $200,000 to Kindall. Kindall was previously identified as “Individual #1” in Plump’s DOJ charges.

Rogers also moved money from the fund to “Organization #1.”  The organization founder, “Individual #1,” then gave a portion of that money to Kindall.

Rogers has served House District 52, which includes portions of Birmingham, since 1982. He ran unopposed in the previous two elections. In 2014, he was challenged by Republican Phillip Bahakel but won with almost 77% of the vote.

Rogers is the third representative to face criminal charges this year. Rep. David Cole, R-Huntsville, pleaded guilty to a voting fraud charge and resigned in August after acknowledging he did not live in the House district at the time he was elected.

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