Man accused of plotting judge’s death still tampering with witnesses, prosecutors say

Federal prosecutors on Friday said the man they think orchestrated an attempt to kill a Travis County judge is still trying to tamper with witnesses while behind bars. 

The allegation came during a pretrial hearing for Chimene Onyeri, who faces a 17-count indictment that accuses him of being the mastermind behind a plot to kill Judge Julie Kocurek outside of her West Austin home in 2015, as well as tampering with witnesses.

“The government believes he continues to tamper with witnesses to this day,” assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Sofer said, arguing that prosecutors needed to continue to heavily redact some evidence provided to the defense until they completed their witness list. 

Prosecutors say Onyeri, 30, targeted Kocurek because he feared she would send him back to prison, potentially putting the brakes on an identity theft ring described in the federal indictment filed against him. 

The 35-page indictment against Onyeri also includes charges of racketeering, mail fraud and identity theft, and wire fraud.

Onyeri’s jury trial is tentatively scheduled to begin March 26. 

Two years ago, Kocurek and her son returned home from a high school football game to find a bag of trash in the driveway of their Tarrytown home, which authorities said was put there by a would-be assassin. 

When Kocurek’s son hopped out of the car to move the bag out of the way, a gunman emerged from the darkness, the teenager told state senators in March. 

Realizing his mother was the likely target, he jumped into the gunman’s line of sight, likely saving his mother’s life, authorities said. The quick-thinking teen’s action forced the gunman to run around the car and fire through the driver’s side window of the car.  

Still, the shooting left Kocurek badly injured. Medics rushed the critically injured judge to the hospital, where she would eventually undergo 26 surgeries.

Kocurek returned to the bench after months of recovery, but the shooting shook Austin’s tight-knit legal community and they demanded action.

State lawmakers obliged during the 2017 session, passing a law that seals judges’ home addresses from the public record and bolsters security at courthouses.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Judge: Kidnapped sisters to remain in foster care for now
Judge: Kidnapped sisters to remain in foster care for now

A judge determined Tuesday that two Round Rock sisters recovered in Colorado after being kidnapped will remain in foster care while studies are being done on their relatives. The attorneys representing Lilianais Victoria Griffith and Luluvioletta Bandera-Margret at a hearing Tuesday agreed that it would be best for the girls to remain in foster care...
Police plan to ramp up security at Jackson Browne concert in Florida after threat
Police plan to ramp up security at Jackson Browne concert in Florida after threat

There will be increased security during singer-songwriter Jackson Browne’s concert Tuesday evening at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts after a threat was made at a northwest Indiana church known for its progressive stands on racial and social justice issues, the Orlando Police Department said. Police said banners with racist...
Hawaii governor couldn't correct missile alert sooner because he forgot Twitter password 
Hawaii governor couldn't correct missile alert sooner because he forgot Twitter password 

Forgetting a password to a social media account can be embarrassing, and that memory lapse caused some anxious moments in Hawaii when a missile alert was sent by mistake. When the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent the incorrect alert on Jan. 13, panic gripped the state. It took Hawaii Gov. David Ige 17 minutes to take to Twitter to reassure the...
Community news: Meeting on 51st Street project Saturday

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Meeting on 51st Street project The Austin Transportation Department will host a public meeting to evaluate its East 51st Street improvement project from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. The meeting will be at the East 19th Street Missionary Baptist Church, 3401 Rogge Lane. The aim of the project on East 51st Street, between Interstate...
Williamson County under burn ban

Williamson County commissioners on Tuesday approved placing the county under a burn ban for up to 90 days. The order prohibits the burning of any combustible material outside of an enclosure that can contain all flames, sparks and odors. County residents are also prohibited from burning household yard waste, including leaves, brush and other yard trimmings...
More Stories