SAN DIEGO — A San Diego County Parole board granted parole to former professional skateboarder and 1980's skating icon Mark "Gator" Rogowski on June 14 for the 1991 brutal rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman in Carlsbad.
And, for the second time since 2019, the District Attorney's Office seeks to overturn the parole board's decision.
“The family and friends of Jessica Bergsten deserve the continued promise of justice in this case,” District Attorney Summer Stephan stated in a June 15 press release, one day after the parole board's decision. “Our office argued strongly against releasing this violent defendant. We handle hundreds of parole hearings each year, fighting when it’s appropriate to make sure dangerous criminals are not released and crime victims are given a voice.”
Rogowski was sentenced to 31 years to life in 1992 for raping and killing Jessica Bergsten. Rogowski, known more commonly as "Gator," admitted to clubbing his ex-girlfriend's friend Bergsten with a metal anti-vehicle theft bar, then raping her before stuffing her into a surfboard bag to drown out her screams.
Rogowski then dumped Bergsten's body in a shallow grave in Imperial County.
Prior to his conviction, Rogowski was at the center of the burgeoning skateboard craze. Rogowski was sponsored by Vision Skateboards and had appeared in movies as well as music videos.
Rogowski, now 55 years old, has been serving his sentence in Robert J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa. In 2019, a parole board granted Rogowski parole.
The District Attorney's Office again contested the board's hearing, later appealing to Governor Gavin Newsom to overturn the parole board's decision. Months later, Newsom overturned Rogowski's release.
Rogowski's attorney, Laura Sheppard, attended the June 14 parole hearing.
Sheppard says Rogowski is remorseful and has spent his time in prison trying to make amends for his heinous crimes, even starting a self-help program, "Gender Abuse Prevention."
Sheppard also said that at the time of the murder, Rogowski was stunted from an abusive childhood and was recovering from a serious head injury he sustained not long before the crime.
"As the victim's family expressed their grief and anger at the end of the video hearing, [Rogowski] cried," said attorney Sheppard. "He feels devastated by the impact of his crime, and I know this not just from his testimony yesterday, but from his continual demonstration of sincere remorse during dozens of conversations with him over the past couple of years."
Added Sheppard, "[Rogowski] is the perfect example of a youth offender successfully rehabilitated by the state prison system because upon confessing his crime and receiving a life sentence, he almost immediately began participating in prison programs to help him recover from substance addiction and reprogram him to reject the toxic masculinity, entitlement, and the anger-fueled impulsive violence that led to his crime. The system succeeded, and Mark's good behavior in prison, sincere remorse, and track record of making amends are proof that it works! This year, even the parole board's trained psychologist found him to be a low risk of danger to the public."
The parole board has 120-days to review its decision and then Governor Newsom has 30-days to overturn Rogowski's release.