A Houston man has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a racketeering scheme that involved the attempted assassination of an Austin state district judge.
Chimene Hamilton Onyeri attempted to kill 390th State District Judge Julie Kocurek, whom Onyeri believed was going to sentence him to prison, by shooting her while she sat in her car outside her Austin home after she returned home from a Friday night high school football game in 2015.
Three years later, a federal jury convicted Onyeri of one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act statue, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of aggravated identity theft and six counts of witness tampering.
In addition to the life sentence, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel also ordered Onyeri to pay $178,374.41 in restitution.
“Today’s life sentence for Mr. Onyeri was about more than obtaining a measure of justice for Judge Kocurek—although we certainly did that,” said John Bash, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, whose office prosecuted Onyeri. “It was also about safeguarding the integrity of our judicial system. This office, along with our federal, state, and local law-enforcement partners, will be absolutely relentless in pursuing those who attack or threaten judges or court staff. Impartial, fearless judges are key to the rule of law. Today the rule of law was vindicated.”
Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial alleging that from 2012 to 2015, Onyeri and accomplices Marcellus Antoine Burgin of Cypress, Texas, and Rasul Kareem Scott of Marrero, Louisiana, all conspired to commit various fraudulent schemes for financial gain in Austin, Houston, and Louisiana including converting stolen debit card numbers into cash, mail fraud, bribery of a public official, money laundering and attempted murder.
Burgin and Scott both pleaded guilty to one RICO conspiracy charge each and are scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 13.
Testimony during Onyeri’s trial also revealed that he attempted to contact six witnesses by smuggling a note out of the Travis County Jail in an attempt to persuade them not to talk about his criminal activities to investigators in the case.
“I have watched Judge Kocurek and her family handle this ordeal with courage and grace. At long last, they see justice,” stated Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, whose prosecutors assisted in the investigation.
Kocurek did not return a call for comment. Victor Arana, an Austin attorney who represents Onyeri, also did not return a call for comment.
Last year, Kocurek testified before a Texas Senate committee in support of a bill that would increase security measures for judges. Bullets hit Kocurek in the arm and hand, causing her to lose a finger.
“These were the most terrifying moments of our lives,” Kocurek told members of the committee considering S.B. 42.
Kocurek’s 17-year-old son Will also testified that he had gotten out of the family car to remove a trash bag in the driveway when someone with a gun ran past him and fired at his mother while she was in the vehicle.
“I thought she was going to die,” the teenager recalled.