Judge Kocurek’s accused shooter gets second chance to dispute evidence


Highlights

The defense is trying to suppress evidence that shows Onyeri was in Austin at the time of the shooting.

Defendant Chimene Onyeri’s trial is scheduled to begin March 26.

The man charged with the attempted murder of Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek will get a second chance to suppress key evidence after his defense team located a previously unavailable witness.

Attorneys for Chimene Onyeri argued last week in federal court that a cellphone showing Onyeri was in Austin around the time of Kocurek’s November 2015 shooting was seized during an unlawful traffic stop. According to testimony from a former Austin police detective, evidence scraped from the phone is “highly incriminating” and contains text messages between Onyeri and two co-defendants who have already pleaded guilty.

U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel said last week that he plans to rule on the defense motion to suppress the evidence soon so that the losing side will have time to regroup ahead of a March 26 trial.

READ: Investigator’s error led to dismissal of threat on Judge Kocurek’s life

But before Yeakel issued his ruling, Onyeri’s attorneys asked to present an additional witness — the driver of the vehicle, Reginald Matthews, who was previously unavailable to testify, according to an email they sent to the judge Thursday evening.

“Turns out that hood folks don’t return calls or cards from ‘investigators,’” defense lawyer Victor Arana wrote.

Yeakel wants to hear from Matthews, and he ordered that the hearing reconvene on Wednesday.

Authorities say Matthews was driving a Dodge Charger carrying Onyeri and two other men on the night of Onyeri’s arrest. The car made an abrupt left turn after spotting authorities camped outside of Onyeri’s home in Houston, according to testimony from agents who worked on the investigation.

A Houston police officer said he initiated the traffic stop after Matthews made an illegal turn into a far lane. Onyeri’s lawyers suggested the officer had lied about the illegal turn to justify the stop.

READ: Three men indicted in plot to kill Judge Kocurek

Onyeri was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Louisiana. His phone, which investigators say was smashed into pieces, was taken into evidence through a search warrant.

Investigators say Onyeri was motivated to kill Kocurek through a belief that the judge would revoke his probation on a 2012 larceny charge and send him back to jail, thus thwarting a criminal fraud operation he had headed.

A 17-count indictment accuses Onyeri, 30, of attempted murder, racketeering, mail fraud, identity theft and wire fraud. His trial could take up to six weeks, Yeakel said.

Co-defendants Marcellus Burgin and Rasul Scott pleaded guilty. The specifics of the deals they agreed to are being kept under court-ordered seal.

Kocurek has returned to the bench in the 390th District Court, but not before losing her left index finger as a result of the attack outside of her Tarrytown home.

Onyeri twice has been charged in Houston with murder, but in both cases the charges were dropped.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

UPDATE: Akins High School lockdown lifted
UPDATE: Akins High School lockdown lifted

10:40 a.m. update: A lockdown at Akins High School that lasted around two hours was lifted after police found the suspicious person they had been looking for off campus. Austin school district police said all students and staff are safe, and no injuries were reported. 10:20 p.m. update: Austin school district officials said Akins High School has...
FORECAST: Scattered storms bring cold rain; temps mainly in the 40s 
FORECAST: Scattered storms bring cold rain; temps mainly in the 40s 

Thursday forecast for Austin: It’s miserable out there. Scattered storms rolled through Central Texas in the predawn hours Thursday and more rain is likely throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service. With new storms possible in the afternoon, Austin could get up to a quarter-inch of rain or higher in places where stronger thunderstorms...
Packed town hall showcases finalists for Austin Public Health director
Packed town hall showcases finalists for Austin Public Health director

A town hall Wednesday night showcased the two finalists running to become Austin Public Health’s next director. Stephanie Hayden, the current interim director, and Dr. Philip Huang, with the department’s Disease Prevention and health Promotion Division, are the two remaining candidates vying to lead the department that manages a variety...
79-year-old woman safe after being reported missing, police say
79-year-old woman safe after being reported missing, police say

8:45 a.m. Thursday: Austin police say 79-year-old Herminia Gomez, who was reported missing Wednesday, has been found and is safe.  Wednesday: Austin police are asking for the public’s help in finding a 79-year-old woman that went missing in North Austin.  Herminia Gomez was last seen Wednesday about 1:30 p.m. near...
Texas Democrats see big jump in turnout on first day of early voting

In the state’s 15 counties with the most registered voters, 51 percent more Democrats voted Tuesday, the first day of early voting for the party’s March 6 primary, than voted on the first day of early of voting for the 2014 Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the number of Republican primary voters on Tuesday increased by just 16 percent in...
More Stories