Police Promised Anonymity in Record Cocaine Seizure : Officer Refuses to Name Narcotics Informant
A Los Angeles narcotics detective who headed the investigation that led to the arrest of 10 South Americans in the state’s largest cocaine seizure refused repeatedly Tuesday to divulge to defense attorneys information about the confidential informant on whose tip the arrests were made.
Detective Robert Gosnell, the first prosecution witness in the preliminary hearing before North Municipal Judge Richard L. Weatherspoon, would tell the cadre of defense attorneys only that the informant had worked with Los Angeles police for “several years.”
Defense attorney Robert L. Corbin complained to Weatherspoon that the detective’s refusal to reveal the information hampered defense efforts. The 10 suspects were arrested April 4 in raids that netted 1,784 pounds of cocaine and $730,000 in cash from six locations in Placentia, Fullerton and Anaheim.
Gosnell would say only that the informant had been promised that his identity would never be revealed if he helped with the case. Weatherspoon thus far has sided with police and Assistant Dist. Atty. James Brooks, denying several motions that would have forced the prosecution to reveal details about the informant.
Gosnell, citing a statute that gives police officers the right to decline to answer questions about an informant, refused time and again to divulge details.
Attorneys Michael McDonnell and James Riddet questioned the 23-year police veteran for more than three hours without success.
The detective also refused to tell the attorneys whether the informant is involved in the case, if he has ever been convicted of a felony, or if the informant had a felony case pending against him.
30 Hours of Surveillance
Gosnell, however, testified that two of the 10 defendants were under surveillance for about 30 hours on April 3 and 4 before three search warrants were obtained for the six locations. The arrests and seizures occurred about 11 p.m. on April 4.
The detective said that Juan Perez Sanchez, an Ecuadorean, and Gonzalo Ruiz, a Colombian, were the two suspects that he and other investigators tailed those two days. In a search warrant affidavit, Gosnell had indicated that his informant had pointed out Perez Sanchez as someone “dealing cocaine in Orange County.”
Gosnell said he observed Perez Sanchez and Ruiz conducting what appeared to be a cocaine transaction in the parking lot of an Anaheim restaurant on April 3 and also observed the two men making several calls from public telephones. The detective refused reveal whether the informant had been present during the drug transaction in the parking lot.
Gosnell also said that he had never seen the other eight suspects, four of whom are women, before their arrests.