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.

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