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

Feb 01, 2018

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.