Victim: Michael N. Russo
The accused: Harold Govoni

Michael N._Russo

Michael N. Russo

White male

Age at time: 15

Weapon: unarmed

 
Govoni

Harold Govoni

White male

Age at time: 61

Weapon: gun

gun

Defendant photo: Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office

Case type:
Citizen enforcing the law

Location:
Public

Initiator:
Defendant

Witnesses:
Yes

Case year:
2008

Location details: Lakeside shopping center in front of a store in Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, on April 17, 2008

What happened: Harold Govoni, a retiree and captain of his community's neighborhood watch, said he got a complaint that juveniles were in his neighborhood smoking marijuana. He said when he tried to get them, they jumped over a wall and went to the adjacent shopping center. Govoni said he went home, got his gun, then went to the shopping center where he found five young men sitting in front of a Marshall's. The young men said they had just eaten at Burger King and were waiting for a mom to pick them up when Govoni came up, pointed a handgun at them and told them to put their hands up on the wall and get down on their knees. He accused them of smoking dope on his property. One boy's mother drove up as this was happening and Govoni pocketed his gun. She asked Govoni if he was a police officer. When he said no, the mother told the boys to get into the car and she drove away while calling 911. Govoni also called 911 from the scene but left before police arrived. The arresting officer interviewed all parties, the mother and a store manager who witnessed the scene and corroborated the boys' account.

The outcome: Govoni was charged with 5 counts of aggravated assault with a firearm and improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon. The Circuit judge denied Govoni's "Stand Your Ground" motion on a procedural technicality and 4th DCA upheld that decision. Florida Supreme Court, however, ruled in July 2011 that the case should be sent back to the 4th DCA for reconsideration. In December 2011, all charges of aggravated assault were dropped against Govoni. He was sent to a pre-trial diversion program on the charge of improper display of a firearm.

Investigating agency: Palm Beach County

Case decision made by: Prosecutor

Trayvon Martin’s death became controversial because circumstances leading up to the shooting cast doubt on who was to blame. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed other “stand your ground” cases for similar circumstances. The Times relied on available information, some of which may not tell the whole story. When the situation was unclear, that was noted.

Yes No Unclear/
disputed

Did the victim initiate the confrontation?

Check

Was the victim armed?

Check

Was the victim committing a crime that led to the confrontation?

Check

Did the defendant pursue the victim?

Check

Could the defendant have retreated to avoid the conflict?

Check

Was the defendant on his or her property?

Check

Did someone witness the attack?

Check

Was there physical evidence?

Check

Source: FindLaw, Aug. 19, 2009. Link to original source

Source: Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office booking card, April 7, 2008.

Source: Supreme Court of Florida review, July 7, 2011.

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Case last updated: Aug. 10, 2013