DA Drops More Charges Rather Than Release Informant Records

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The Orange County District Attorney’s Office Thursday dismissed the remaining charges against a formerly accused attempted murderer rather than turn over informant evidence to his defense attorneys.

The DA’s office had charged 49-year-old Joseph Martin Govey, formerly of Costa Mesa, with attempted murder and solicitation of murder along with charges of illegal gun possession and possession of counterfeit money, records show.

But prosecutors dropped the murder charges on Sept. 22 rather than turn over a trove of records relating to an informant network the DA’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department ran in Orange County jails.

However, Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals was still requiring some informant records be turned over to Govey’s attorney, Renee Garcia, if the DA’s Office went ahead with its prosecution of the gun and counterfeit charges.

Then Thursday, prosecutors said they were dropping those charges as well, which effectively blocked the evidence disclosures.

The collapse of the case against Govey was the third instance in three months in which the DA capitulated on serious criminal prosecutions — where informant evidence violations had emerged from an unprecedented hearing in the mass murder conviction of Scott Evans Dekraai for the 2011 murders of eight people in a Seal Beach beauty salon.

“Mr. Govey’s case was dismissed in its entirety,” Garcia said. “He has a probation violation for a different case, so he is still in custody. The hearing on that case will be Oct. 17.”

Goethals could still keep Govey behind bars long term based on the probation violation.

Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for District Attorney Tony Rackaukas, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

In an OC Weekly article published Thursday, Schoeder was quoted as saying the release of the requested records — which the DA considered irrelevant to the Govey case — would endanger witnesses and their families.

Garcia and other defense attorneys have said the four informants in the Govey case were identified in court records and/or had testified in other court proceedings.

Dekraai’s public defender, Scott Sanders, has said he will be seeking the informant records from the Govey case for his client, who is in the penalty phase of this trial and might receive a death sentence.

Rex Dalton is a San Diego-based journalist who has worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the journal Nature. You can reach him directly at rexdalton@aol.com.

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