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


Federal court testimony from a retired Austin police detective on Thursday revealed why investigators mistakenly dismissed a tip as false that could have prevented the attempted murder of a Travis County judge.

Weeks before the November 2015 shooting of state District Judge Julie Kocurek, an anonymous tipster informed the district attorney’s office that Chimene Onyeri had plotted an attack on the judge. The tipster was later revealed to be Onyeri’s girlfriend.

The tip was investigated but determined to be false, according to testimony from retired detective Derek Israel.

“In retrospect it was very credible,” Israel said.

READ: Confidential records detail decision not to warn Kocurek of threat

Israel said the mistake was made because investigators believed Onyeri had not been in in Kocurek’s court since 2012. The theory behind the shooting was Onyeri was concerned Kocurek would send him back to prison on a bond forfeiture. It turned out the investigators with the district attorney’s office were incorrect, and that Onyeri had actually been in her court the month before.

In his testimony, Israel did not name the person who made the mistake.

At the time of the attack, Onyeri had an arrest warrant in New Orleans. Investigators determined he never would have made an appearance in Kocurek’s court with an outstanding warrant. However, the warrant had yet to be reported into a national database, Israel said.

Thursday’s hearing is to determine if authorities had proper cause to initiate a traffic stop that led to the seizing of incriminating cell phone evidence against Onyeri.

The court is in recess for lunch and will resume at 2 p.m.

Earlier: The man who authorities said plotted an attack to kill Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek will appear in federal court in Austin for a pretrial hearing on Thursday.

Lawyers for Chimene Onyeri intend to argue that investigators obtained much of their evidence through an illegal search. A Jan. 10 motion to suppress evidence says police did not have probable cause to pull over Onyeri’s Dodge Charger Dodge Charger outside of his father’s home in Houston. The search uncovered cell phone data that put Onyeri in Austin around the time of the November 2015 shooting.

“Because the cell site information was improperly obtained all of the evidence derived from it should be suppressed from evidence at trial,” the motion says.

In response, prosecutors for the federal government said the search was lawful because Onyeri had committed a traffic violation by taking a wide turn.

The trial is set for March 26.

The attack left Kocurek critically injured, resulting in more than 20 surgeries. Authorities say Onyeri wanted her to dead to prevent the judge from revoking his probation.

A 17-count indictment also accuses Onyeri of racketeering, mail fraud, identity theft and wire fraud.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Officials: Grand jury indicts son of slain jeweler on capital murder charge
Officials: Grand jury indicts son of slain jeweler on capital murder charge

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted Nicolas Shaughnessy, who Travis County investigators have accused of planning to kill his father, on a charge of capital murder, court records show. A two-page indictment said Shaughnessy “knowingly caused the death of an individual” by hiring a man detectives identified as 21-year-old Johnny...
Some Austin-area schools get failing scores under new grading system
Some Austin-area schools get failing scores under new grading system

Multiple campuses in a handful of Austin-area school districts failed to meet Texas academic standards under the state’s new letter grade accountability system. Under the new statewide system, districts on Wednesday received A-through-F letter grades and campuses were labeled “met requirement” or “improvement required.&rdquo...
Fire crews fighting home blaze in Bee Cave
Fire crews fighting home blaze in Bee Cave

Firefighters are fighting a home blaze in Bee Cave, according to Austin fire officials. The fire was reported at 2608 Cascade Falls near Bee Cave Road around 2 p.m. Wednesday. Austin fire, Oak Hill and Ce-Bar are on scene assisting. A heavy fire in the garage with vehicles were involved in the fire. This story is developing; check back for updates...
BLOTTER: Men steal guns from South Austin pawn shop, feds say
BLOTTER: Men steal guns from South Austin pawn shop, feds say

SOUTH AUSTIN Feds: Men steal guns, jewelry from pawn shop Two men on Monday robbed a South Austin pawn shop, threatening an employee with a sledgehammer and breaking display cases, according to officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The men stole five pistols and over $6,000 in jewelry, officials said. The robbery...
Austin man accused of stealing rifle from Round Rock police car
Austin man accused of stealing rifle from Round Rock police car

An Austin man is accused of stealing an AR-15 rifle from a locked gun rack inside a Round Rock police car, according to an arrest affidavit. Louis Philip Reyes, 26, was charged with theft of a firearm, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years behind bars. On June 22, Round Rock police discovered the rifle was stolen from a patrol car at an...
More Stories