MARTINEZ -- A Contra Costa prosecutor dropped attempted murder charges Wednesday against two men accused in the shooting of a confidential informant after he was allegedly outed by a Richmond police sergeant.
Prosecutor Tom Kensok announced the decision to dismiss attempted murder charges against Jose Vega-Robles, a drug trafficker with ties to a Mexican cartel, and Coby Phillips, an alleged prison gang leader.
Once that occurred, the defendants' attorneys dropped their motion asking for the names of witnesses in the internal probe of Sgt. Michael Wang, an allegedly dirty cop, and transcripts of investigation interviews.
"(Kensok) had no choice but to do it because he had to protect a major state and federal investigation into corruption," said attorney Dan Horowitz, who is representing Phillips in a wide-ranging conspiracy case involving drugs and murder. The defense attorney said he has been contacted by the FBI regarding its investigation into Wang.
Kensok said the decision to drop the charges had nothing to do with ensuring a clean Wang investigation.
"I did not make my decision to further their investigation. I made my decision independently," he said in a phone interview. "Moreover, there was nothing that would've happened to jeopardize their investigation."
Kensok stressed that Jose Vega-Robles is already serving a 75 years-to-life sentence for operating a major Bay Area methamphetamine ring and the 2004 murders of two drug associates in West Contra Costa.
"We were spending a lot of time on (Jose) Vega-Robles and we already have him convicted," Kensok said. "This is streamlining the process rather than being hamstrung and blocked."
And Phillips, he said, remains a three-striker, already in custody on federal drug charges since 2005 and facing murder, attempted murder and conspiracy charges tied to his gang's alleged drug business.
"The other charges are the ones more central to his liability for the criminal enterprise," Kensok said on the attempted murder charge dismissal.
Richmond police officials have acknowledged ongoing criminal and administrative probes into Wang after a prosecution witness, Sergio Vega-Robles, the brother of Jose, in a videotaped interview made numerous allegations against the officer, including taking $120,000 in bribes in 2004 and setting up a drug deal.
He also said Wang told him Jose Hernandez was a police informant who was about to sell guns to his brother Jose in a sting. On Feb. 21, 2005, Hernandez was shot and nearly killed in his Richmond home by Jose Vega-Robles, according to prosecutors.
Kensok said the motive for the shooting was "revenge" because Jose Vega-Robles believed Hernandez was talking to police.
Last month, Hernandez sued the Richmond Police Department, Wang -- who is on administrative leave and under investigation -- officers Chuck Whitney and Mario Chesney, and former police Chief Terry Hudson, claiming the exposure of his name led to him being shot. Hernandez first worked for Wang, then later for Whitney and Chesney after Wang was promoted, according to the lawsuit. The civil case is not affected by the dropped charges.
The attempted murder case had long been targeted by defense attorneys because police files on the informant and lead investigators' reports have disappeared along with "involved officers' memories," Horowitz said.
The defense attorneys have said it appeared to be a cover-up.
This newspaper first reported on the 2005 shooting of Hernandez after it obtained a video of a Contra Costa District Attorney's Office interrogation of drug trafficker Sergio Vega-Robles last year. Wang's attorney has questioned the authenticity of Sergio Vega-Robles' claims.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.