Man linked to judge attack tampering with witnesses, prosecutors say

Dec 01, 2017
Federal prosecutors say Chimene Hamilton Onyeri, left, targeted Judge Julie Kocurek because he feared she would send him back to prison. Photo by James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle

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 plotting to kill District Court Judge Julie Kocurek outside 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.

The shooting left Kocurek critically injured and she eventually underwent 26 surgeries. She returned to the bench after months of recovery, but the attempt on her life shook Austin’s tight-knit legal community. In response to the shooting, state lawmakers during the 2017 session passed a law that seals judges’ home addresses from the public record and bolsters security at courthouses.