A mother’s love: Rohde’s mom pleads for him
Court hears glowing endorsements of Rohde's character in a bid to keep wife killer out of prison
It is difficult to imagine a more glowing endorsement of a character than that given by lawyer Craig Livingstone about his friend Jason Rohde.
Livingstone – speaking in the high court in Cape Town on Monday – described Rohde as caring, charitable, responsible and friendly. He said he met the former property company chief executive in 2015 and their friendship blossomed. Their daughters attended the same school in Johannesburg and played sports together.
Rohde was back in the dock for the resumption of sentencing procedures. He was convicted of murdering his wife, Susan, in Spier, Stellenbosch in 2016.
Livingstone testified in mitigation of sentence, as did Rohde’s mother, Brenda Rohde.
“We met in 2015, I saw him as a very present father, supportive to his children,” said Livingstone. “He was very involved in their daily life. As far as I am aware, he was the sole provider to his children.”
Livingstone said Rohde paid for a “disadvantaged girl” to spend a holiday in Plettenberg Bay in December 2015 for two weeks. He described this act as a “generosity of spirit. It was a wonderful gesture from him.”
Livingstone went on: “As a friend, I found him very caring [and] supportive. He had a calm demeanour. As a friend, a very loyal friend to me. I would ask this court, in sentencing, to consider the work that Jason has done for society.”
But prosecutor Louis van Niekerk brought the image crushing down to Earth. He asked Livingstone if he had read the court judgment – in which Rohde was found guilty – but he said he had not.
Van Niekerk said the ruling painted a different picture of Rohde and asked if Livingstone was aware of his friend’s extramarital affair in “2015 to the end of 2016”. He said he did not know about it.
“The court made harsh findings about his [Rohde’s] conduct,” said Van Niekerk. “In that sense, I would submit that you only knew him superficially. He cheated on his wife [and concealed it].”
Livingstone’s compliments were bolstered by Rohde’s other friend, Craig Fleischer, and his mother. Fleischer said he had known Rohde for 20 years. They had met at a golf course.
“He was well respected,” said Fleischer.
He said that he was “representing 40 people in Johannesburg”.
“In the gallery, there are people from England. It is an emotional [thing] for us. He is a fantastic friend to have, in all aspects,” said Fleischer.
Van Niekerk asked Fleischer if he was surprised that Rohde had cheated on his wife.
Fleischer said: “A lot of surprises came out through the press. In my personal capacity, I disagree with a lot of things that have come out in court.”
Brenda said one had to know her son “in order to love him”.
“He appears to be aloof and stand-offish. As a businessman, he is good and very honest. He is a very kind and caring person,” she said.
“I have seen no physical act of aggression in Jason at all. I have never had complaints. He hates the display of violence. He is a gentle person.”
Brenda wept when she addressed the court about the sentence that she thought would be appropriate for Rohde.
“I can’t emphasise enough Jason’s caring personality. Not only with family, friends and employees,” she said. “I love him very much, so does his father, his sister, his cousins. I ask the court to be lenient and that is not for anybody else but his children.”
The matter has been postponed to Wednesday for further argument.