AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal jury in Texas on Thursday convicted a man who authorities say attempted to assassinate a state judge in an effort to avoid being sent to prison.
Jurors found Chimene Onyeri, 30, guilty of multiple counts of fraud, racketeering and other charges.
Federal prosecutors told jurors over the course of the trial that Onyeri, as part of a racketeering enterprise, shot state District Judge Julie Kocurek as she was in an SUV returning to her home in November 2015.
Onyeri had appeared in court before Kocurek prior to the shooting, and prosecutors said he wanted her dead to avoid going to prison on a probation violation.
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Onyeri acknowledged in court that he was outside the judge’s home, but testified that he only intended to damage her SUV.
Kocurek underwent more than 20 surgeries and lost a finger after the attack.
Sentencing is scheduled for August and Onyeri faces up to life in prison.
The attack prompted Gov. Greg Abbott last year to sign into law a measure that beefed up security for judges. The bill required the state to establish a special judicial security division and allows personal security for state judges who have been threatened or attacked. Court security officers now get special training and the law restricts release of personal information of current and former judges.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that prosecutors during the trial sought to prove two arguments to the jury: that Onyeri shot Kocurek, and that the attack was related to a fraud ring that Onyeri is accused of leading.
If the jury had acquitted Onyeri of the racketeering charge, Travis County prosecutors were expected to file an attempted capital murder charge in state court, according to the newspaper.
Onyeri and others from 2012 to 2015 committed various fraudulent schemes in Louisiana and Texas, according to court records. Those schemes included converting stolen debit card numbers obtained from skimming devices into cash, said prosecutors, who had argued that Onyeri believed those schemes would be disrupted if Kocurek ordered him to prison on the probation violation.
“The law enforcement response to this evil has been truly exemplary,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said in a statement. “The investigation was tireless and meticulous.”