UPDATE: Jurors call a 'compromise' their mixed verdict in Rodger Scales' trial for 2010 shotgun slaying

Scales acquitted of murder, convicted of assault, other felonies

tchitwood@ledger-enqurier.comAugust 1, 2013 

UPDATE: In what some jurors later called a “compromise verdict,” Rodger O’Brien Scales was acquitted of murder Friday in the 2010 shotgun slaying of Kelley Leggett, but convicted of aggravated assault and other felonies.

Afterward jurors said they believed defense attorney Cynthia Lain’s argument that Scales’ codefendants found him a convenient scapegoat for a robbery scheme he did not hatch and would not have benefitted from, but they still found sufficient evidence he “was a party to” the crime.

The crime was an attempted home invasion intended to rob three women who had drugs and money. But the would-be robbers went to the wrong Old Buena Vista Road apartment the evening of Nov. 9, 2010, and tried to force their way into Leggett’s home.

Responding to their knock at his front door, Leggett opened the door, saw guns and pushed it shut as the raiders tried to force it open. As his brother Theodore Leggett bolted the door locked, a blast of buckshot fired through the door blew a gaping hole in Kelley Leggett’s forehead.

A barrage of gunfire from outside the house followed, wounding Theodore Leggett and Kelley Leggett’s fiance, Angela Crawford.

Codefendants claimed Scales was the triggerman in the fatal blast. Scales claimed he only drove the would-be robbers to a car wash near Leggett’s home, and there awaited their return.

Here are the charges for which he was acquitted: malice murder, two counts of felony murder, using a firearm to commit a crime, and first-degree criminal damage to property.

These are the charges for which he was convicted: six counts of aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit a felony, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

The jury considered the latter charge separately, after delivering their verdict on the other felonies. Jurors could not be told earlier that Scales was a felon without the risk of prejudice.

So only after their first verdict were they shown a record of Scales’ pleading guilty March 27, 2008, to the offense of false imprisonment, stemming from an incident reported Aug. 12, 2007. For that he was sentenced in 2008 to serve two years of an eight-year sentence.

Though jurors Friday found Scales not guilty of murder, the maximum penalties for the charges of which he was convicted collectively could get him a sentence of up to 105 years in prison, said prosecutor LaRae Moore.

Superior Court Judge Gil McBride set Scales’ sentencing for 9 a.m. Aug. 20. His attorney requested the judge review a psychological evaluation as evidence mitigating the conduct for which Scales has been convicted. A relative said Scales, 28, is mentally challenged.

Moore told McBride the prosecution will present evidence of an assault for which Scales long has been wanted in Phenix City, on charges of rape, sodomy and robbery. That was reported Dec. 11, 2006.

Some jurors Friday returned to the courtroom after McBride dismissed them, telling Lain they were confused by the law and the judge’s instructions on how to apply it in Scales’ case. They said also that they found insufficient evidence Scales had the shotgun used to kill Leggett, 52.

Also they did not find the prosecution witnesses testifying against Scales to be credible, they said.

Those witnesses included two brothers who pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony. They claimed Scales had the gun that killed Leggett — an Interstate Arms Corp. 12-gauge pump shotgun, a reproduction of a World War I trench gun with a bayonet mount.

Crime-scene evidence showed other weapons fired into Leggett’s home were a Cobra .380-caliber pistol and a Glock 9mm.

Codefendant Cleveland Gary, 26, testified that he had the Glock as he stood to the side of Leggett’s apartment while Scales fired through the door. Gary said he fired the Glock only once.

His brother Tevin Gary, 20, testified the Cobra .380 belonged to him, but that day he had loaned it to Scales.

Yet the evidence showed the Garys had all the guns when police started making arrests.

The arrests started just hours after Leggett was killed. Near the crime scene witnesses had recalled seeing two cars that matched those the Gary brothers used: a 1983 Chevy Malibu that Tevin Gary usually drove, and a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass that was Cleveland Gary’s. The Malibu was primer gray; the Cutlass blue with some primer gray.

About 3 a.m., Columbus Officer Jason Swails saw Cleveland Gary’s Cutlass on Buena Vista Road near Eighth Street and tried to stop it. Cleveland Gary sped away, initiating a chase that topped 100 mph as he headed into downtown Columbus and across the 13th Street bridge to Phenix City.

Swails broke off the chase as dispatchers requested aid from Phenix City police.

During Scales’ trial, Cleveland Gary testified that having escaped Columbus police that night, he drove to Phenix City’s Riverview Apartments and called his mother to come get him and his brother. His mother Evelyn Gary came to get them in the primer-gray Chevy Malibu her younger son usually drove.

A Phenix City officer saw it come across the 13th Street bridge and turn toward Riverview Apartments, and followed it. He blocked it in an apartments parking lot before turning his blue lights on. A second officer coming for backup noticed the Cutlass backed into a parking space nearby. Its tag matched the license plate of the car Swails had chased.

In the Malibu, police found the 9mm Glock. In the Cutlass, officers found the Cobra .380. Columbus police later found the pump shotgun concealed in the crawl space of a vacant house next door to the Garys’ home on South Dixon Drive.

In Tevin Gary’s pants pocket, police found an Aguila brand .380-caliber bullet, the same brand officers found at the crime scene.

Detectives said their investigation revealed the Gary brothers’ cousin Daveka Wade hatched the plot to rob women who had a cache of drugs. Wade recruited the Garys and their friends to raid the women’s apartment — he could not go himself because the women would have recognized him — and he sent the raiders to the wrong place.

Wade also has been charged with murder, as has Jarvis Alexander, a close family friend of the Garys. They are to be tried later.

After the trial Friday, Lain said jurors saw Scales had nothing to gain from participating in the raid — Daveka Wade and Cleveland Gary had planned to split the loot between them — and the jury did not believe Scales had the shotgun or helped plan the raid.

“There was no evidence that Rodger planned it. They didn’t need him to drive. He wasn’t getting anything out of it,” Lain said.

Moore, who also spoke to jurors after the trial, said the prosecution witnesses obviously had credibility issues, but that was not the only impediment to a murder conviction.

“Yes, they had trouble believing anything the Garys said,” she said, “but I think moreso probably the problem lies with not being convinced that Scales had the gun, and whether or not they could convict him without proof that he actually had the gun.”

Here's today's earlier report on the verdict:

A jury has found Rodger O’Brien Scales guilty only of aggravated assault in the 2010 slaying of Kelley Leggett, killed by a blast of buckshot as he fought to keep gunmen from forcing their way through his front door.

Scales, 28, the first of three defendants to be tried in Leggett's homicide, faced multiple felony counts. The jury delivered this verdict: not guilty of malice murder, not guilty of felony murder, guilty of six counts of aggravated assault, guilty of criminal attempt to commit a felony, not guilty of using a firearm to commit a crime, not guilty of first-degree criminal property damage, and guilty of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

After rendering that verdict, jurors met again to consider Scales' charge of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, a case that could not be presented with the other charges without the risk of prejudicing the jury. They found him guilty of that charge this afternoon.

Court records show he pleaded guilty March 27, 2008, to the offense of false imprisonment, the charge stemming from an incident reported Aug. 12, 2007.

Though jurors found Scales not guilty of murder, the maximum penalties for the charges of which he was convicted collectively could get him a sentence of up to 105 years in prison, said prosecutor LaRae Moore.

Here is Thursday's report on the trial:

A jury now is pondering the murder case against Rodger O’Brien Scales, one of five suspects charged in the 2010 slaying of Kelley Leggett, killed by a blast of buckshot as he fought to keep gunmen from forcing their way through his front door.

Scales, 28, faces multiple felony counts, which besides murder include aggravated assault, using a firearm to commit a crime, criminal damage to property and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

He is accused of firing the fatal shotgun blast through Leggett’s front door as he and other would-be robbers targeted the wrong Old Buena Vista Road apartment in a scheme to rob women of drugs and money on Nov. 9, 2010. Hearing the shotgun, other gunmen fired into the apartment with a 9mm Glock handgun and a .380-caliber Cobra pistol, leaving shell casings scattered outside Leggett’s home.

Leggett, 52, was killed by the initial blast, his head blown open as he tried to lock his door. His brother Theodore and fiancee Angela Crawford were wounded. The gunmen never got inside, and finally fled.

In court Wednesday, firearms technician Catherine Jordan of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab identified three weapons that matched evidence found at the scene: the Glock 9mm, the Cobra .380, and an Interstate Arms Corp. 12-gauge pump shotgun, unusual in that it’s a reproduction of a World War I trench gun, including a bayonet mount.

A codefendant, Cleveland Gary, 26, claimed Scales fired the shotgun through Leggett’s door as Gary stood to one side with the 9mm. He also testified that he and Scales were the only two to attempt the home invasion, though evidence showed three guns were fired, and witnesses reported seeing others with weapons.

Gary and his brother Tevin Gary, 20, each have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony. Scales’ defense attorney Cynthia Lane maintains the Garys are trying to pin the crime on Scales to escape murder charges.

But the guns police have recovered all came from the Garys, and two cars witnesses described seeing near the crime scene matched those the Gary brothers used: a 1983 Chevy Malibu that Tevin Gary usually drove, and a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass that was Cleveland Gary’s. The Malibu was primer gray; the Cutlass blue with some primer gray on it.

After Leggett was killed, police were on the lookout for vehicles matching witnesses’ descriptions. About 3 a.m. that night, Columbus Officer Jason Swails saw Cleveland Gary’s Cutlass on Buena Vista Road near Eighth Street and tried to stop it. Cleveland Gary sped away, initiating a chase that topped 100 mph as he headed into downtown Columbus and across the 13th Street bridge to Phenix City.

Swails broke off the chase as dispatchers requested aid from Phenix City police.

Cleveland Gary testified that having escaped Columbus police, he drove to Phenix City’s Riverview Apartments and called his mother to come get him and his brother.

His mother Evelyn Gary came to get them in the primer-gray Chevy Malibu her younger son usually drove.

A Phenix City officer saw it come across the 13th Street bridge and turn toward Riverview Apartments, and followed it. He did not turn his blue lights on until he had the car blocked in an apartments parking lot.

A second officer arriving for backup noticed the Cutlass backed into a parking space nearby. Its tag matched the license plate of the car Swails had chased. In the Malibu, police found the 9mm Glock. In the Cutlass, officers found the Cobra .380. Columbus police later found the pump shotgun concealed in the crawl space of a vacant house next door to the Garys’ home on South Dixon Drive.

In Tevin Gary’s pants pocket, police found an Aguila brand .380-caliber bullet, the same brand officers found at the crime scene. Jordan, the GBI firearms identification expert, said Aguila is made in Mexico and not commonly available from big U.S. retailers. Police also found some .380 Aguila ammo in a Booker T. Washington apartment where Scales was living.

Detectives said their investigation revealed the Gary brothers’ cousin Daveka Wade hatched the plot to rob three women who had a cache of drugs — Scales in a recorded police interview said they had 50 pounds of marijuana and 2.5 kilograms of crack cocaine. Wade recruited the Garys and their friends to raid the women’s apartment — he could not go himself because the women would have recognized him — and he sent the raiders to the wrong place.

Wade also has been charged with murder, as has Jarvis Alexander, a close family friend of the Garys. They are to be tried later.

Lain, Scales’ defense attorney, said in her closing statement Thursday that the Garys want to blame her client in an effort to protect Tevin Gary. Though the Garys gave conflicting accounts of what happened, their stories have one commonality, she said: That Tevin Gary stayed home while others went on the raid: “That’s the only consistent thing that has been said: Tevin wasn’t there."

Yet the Garys had all the guns, and Scales did not, Lain said: “You cannot put that shotgun in his hands — no way, no how.” All Scales admitted was that he drove Cleveland Gary’s Cutlass to a car wash near Leggett’s apartment and waited while the others went on their mission. He did not know what they were doing, he said.

Prosecutor LaRae Moore countered that Scales in his own interview with police provided far more details of the scheme than someone who naively served as a driver, and robbers don’t rely on drivers who don’t know the plan.

“Who would select a getaway driver who doesn’t know he’s a getaway driver?” she asked.

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