Juan Govea in court

Juan Govea appeared in court on Jan. 12, 2017 in Monterey County Superior Court, before his case was moved to San Benito County due to a conflict.

When he was arrested in December of 2016 on felony charges of unlawful sex with a minor, Juan Govea was a new employee at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. While his case moved through the court system, he remained employed, though he did not physically work in the museum until after prosecutors dropped his case. 

At that time, Sept. 1, 2017, he returned to his position as director of exhibits and education. Almost three years to the day, on Sept. 3, Govea resigned from his most recent position at the museum, director of community engagement. 

The resignation comes after similar allegations surfaced on social media in recent days. 

Both the criminal and social media allegations against Govea concern former students. Before joining the staff of the museum, he taught biology at Salinas High School for 11 years, and the alleged crime happened about six months after he left the school. The girl was 17 at the time, and was 18 by the time the case proceeded through the court system. 

While the Monterey County District Attorney prosecuted the case, it was moved from Monterey County Superior Court to San Benito County Superior Court after the entire local bench recused itself due to a conflict. The conflict: Govea's mother, Lydia Villarreal, is a Monterey County Superior Court judge. 

Govea pleaded not guilty. As prosecutors prepared to try his case, Jane Doe refused to cooperate, which led them to withdraw charges. "There wasn’t any way to make this case without her," Chief Deputy District Attorney Berkley Brannon said at the time, in August of 2017. 

A lack of victim cooperation in such cases is not uncommon, Brannon said: "When someone’s in a position of power, they have undue influence and they can exploit that."

Fast forward to the present, when a new Instagram account, called @thisisour831, launched. "#thisisour831 is a project in response to recent conversations in Monterey County on the culture of silence and shame that exists around sexual violence, abuse and trauma," reads the first post from three weeks ago. "This is not a new issue. It is a pattern."

The only post on their feed so far references a specific incident was made on Aug. 29, and describes allegations against Govea. The post claims to be a story "from another young woman that was groomed and sexually abused by Juan Govea," although the Weekly was not able to reach her or verify her identity. 

She describes what started as a texting relationship when she was 16 or 17, then Govea inviting her to his home near the school, where she says he served dinner and Champagne followed by peach vodka. After that, she writes, she was too drunk to go home. She spent the night and they had oral sex. 

A commenter on the Instagram post urges viewers to email P.G. museum leadership calling on them to remove Govea from his job. 

And the emails to museum leadership flowed in. One letter sent on Sept. 2 was signed by 15 former staffers and called for Govea's resignation. "It is our shared belief that the museum must act now to ensure the health and safety of local children and students, as well as preserve the integrity and future well-being of the long-standing community future that is the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History," they wrote. "Given the allegations that are now coming to light, we believe his resignation is the only way to achieve these goals."

In an email to museum staff and supporters on the evening of Sept. 3, Executive Director Jeanette Kihs and board member Tama Olver wrote, "I have accepted the resignation of Juan Govea…People are at the heart of what we do and the public trust is of the utmost important. In support of our shared commitment to the mission of the museum, the next step is to reestablish lines of communications. We have experienced a very difficult time and are committed to learning from it and moving forward." 

Neither Kihs nor Olver responded to requests for comment on Friday, Sept. 4. Govea could not be reached on Friday, nor the attorney who represented him in the criminal case in 2017.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

Recommended for you

(4) comments

Mary Kenner

Thank you for covering this; it's incredibly difficult for survivors to share their experience, regardless of anonymity, and I'm glad the Weekly (and Sara Rubin, for that matter) are willing to support these members of our community.

Mary Kenner

Thank you for reporting what matters to the community. It's incredibly difficult for a survivor to share their story, regardless of anonymity, and our community needs more people willing to support them.

Lisa Johnson

The lack of journalism ethics here is absolutely revolting. Let me get this straight, Monterey County Weekly brought up an old story and published a serious new allegation against a private citizen without verifying the identity or even speaking to the accuser, let alone doing the work to corroborate their story??? Are you kidding me??!! This is how women got burned alive in Salem and entertainers got blacklisted in Hollywood during the McArthey era. This is dangerous reporting. Look, the beauty and horror of social media is that anyone can post whatever they want on their platform, that's one thing. But for a this weekly to then just publish these allegations blindly, breaking all journalistic and ethical rules is disgusting. As a female who is all for the #MeToo movement, I believe women. But that relies on the idea that the publications I read do the work and verify that there actual IS a real woman behind this with these real experiences and not just an anonymous troll trying to take someone down. You all know full well there is a way of protecting a accuser's identity while also verifying it and doing the work to corroborate their story so that you ethically (and legally) have grounds to publish it. The Monterey County Weekly failed this basic journalistic bar completely. Sara Rubin, you are not Ronan Farrow, and this is not good reporting. Your laziness impacts lives. I noticed the Monterey County Weekly at the top of their page asks for financial support to help their "reporters do important work". This article isn't important, its petty, catty, mature and there "reporters" are laughable. MCW, try and be real journalism. Do better. Take this article down.

James Hengston

Ewww!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.