A dad who was under federal investigation for using his California state job to shake down drug rehab clinics for thousands of dollars in cash has turned into a key witness against his son in an upcoming Sacramento murder trial.
Gary Eugene Goethe, 49, is a former supervisor for the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. In a conversation in a restaurant with an informant who was working him in the federal bribery case, Goethe was caught on tape saying his son admitted to him he shot and killed somebody "just because."
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette ruled Tuesday the statement can come into the trial of Elijah Dupree Goethe, 23. He is accused in the Oct. 12, 2008, shooting death of Joseph Washington, 20, in the 2200 block of Mangrum Avenue near Sacramento Executive Airport. Jury selection is scheduled to begin today.
The elder Goethe had worked as a supervising inspector in the state agency's Drug Medi-Cal Monitoring program. In his role inspecting alcohol and drug treatment programs, he had demanded more than $100,000 in bribes from two Southern California clinics and had collected on at least $3,500 of it, according to a press release issued by federal prosecutors.
Arrested in July 2009, Gary Goethe pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January 2011 to 41 months in federal prison, the press release said. He has since been released.
During the course of the FBI's investigation, Goethe met with a federal informant over dinner on Dec. 3, 2008. Deputy District Attorney Thomas Asker's trial brief said Goethe told the informant his son had just gotten out of jail "because he had shot and killed someone, but that there were no witnesses and he was keeping his mouth shut."
Unknown to Goethe, the informant videotaped the conversation. Asker played the video during a pretrial hearing in Marlette's court Tuesday in an effort to have it admitted at Elijah Goethe's trial.
The judge ruled most of the video was inadmissible because there was no foundation to the father's incriminating remarks about his son.
Marlette did allow in a portion that he ruled was an "adoptive admission" of guilt by the younger Goethe. It came when Gary Goethe told the informant he had asked Elijah, "Why did you do it?" Gary Goethe said in the video his son replied, "Just because," to which he responded, "What's wrong with you?"
Gary Goethe testified at Tuesday's hearing that "I was intoxicated at the time of the taping of that." He said, "I didn't believe my son did that." He further testified that he was merely repeating Sacramento police investigators' theory of the case.
"I did not have this conversation with my son," Goethe insisted on the stand.
He also is heard on the video describing his son as a marijuana dealer who robs his competitors, smokes his product and drinks. The elder Goethe testified he just made those things up and denied he'd ever seen his son do any of it.
Under questioning from defense attorney Jesse Ortiz, Gary Goethe described his relationship with his son as "strained." He said, "We barely even talked."
"Once a kid raises his hand to strike you as a parent, I don't have very much to do with them," Goethe said.
Prosecutors believe his son was a member of the Oak Park Bloods who, along with an unidentified accomplice who has never been arrested, shot Washington and another man as they sat in an automobile at 4:44 a.m. on that October night in 2008.
Investigators focused on Elijah Goethe as a suspect when they lifted what they said was his fingerprint off the driver's side door of the car that Washington and the other man were sitting in when two gunmen pulled up in an SUV, got out, walked up to them and fired.
Goethe is not named as Washington's shooter in the criminal complaint.
The fatal shooting took place shortly after two of Elijah Goethe's reputed gang friends had just been shot at the AM-PM store at 65th Street and 4th Avenue. Officials said there is no evidence that Washington or the second victim had anything to do with the earlier gunfire.
Authorities did find a gun case and 25 rounds of ammunition in their car, and the second shooting victim later admitted he had a gun with him that night, according to Asker's trial brief.
Sacramento police detectives recovered a spent .380-caliber shell casing from the shooting scene on Mangrum Avenue.
In his trial brief, Asker said the casing came from the same gun that was used to shoot and kill a man named Floyd Deshawn Wormley, 33, on 69th Avenue about six weeks before Washington's killing.
A Sacramento jury later convicted George Clifford Mims III, who is now about 45 years old, in the Wormley murder.
Mims was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 50 years. He is Elijah Goethe's uncle, according to Asker's trial brief.
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.