Criminal Justice

Evidence supports RICO conviction of man who said his gun 'burst out' before shooting judge, appeals court says

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A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act conviction of a man accused of shooting a Texas judge as part of racketeering conspiracy that involved stolen credit and debit card numbers.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans upheld the conviction of Chimene Hamilton Onyeri, Courthouse News Service reports.

Judge Julie Kocurek of the 390th District Court in Austin, Texas, survived the shooting, but she was seriously injured. She is now back on the bench.

Onyeri was accused of shooting Kocurek because he thought she would sentence him to prison time in a state court case. Prosecutors said the shooting was a racketeering act intended to allow the continued existence of Onyeri’s criminal enterprise.

Onyeri shot Kocurek in November 2015, two days before a hearing before Kocurek, wrote Judge Edith Brown Clement in the April 28 panel opinion.

Onyeri admitted placing a garbage bag in front of Kocurek’s driveway, admitted waiting for her to return home, and testified that he was standing by her car when the gun he was holding “burst out,” Clement said.

Onyeri was sentenced to life in prison in October 2018 after his April 2018 conviction on 17 counts, including conspiracy to violate the RICO statute, according to the Department of Justice.

Clement said the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. She noted Onyeri’s testimony and also cited evidence that he orchestrated the conspiracy involving stolen debit and credit card numbers and stolen identities used to fabricate tax returns.

Clement also upheld the admission of a smashed Samsung Galaxy cellphone taken from Onyeri’s car after the traffic stop that led to his arrest. She also upheld an order to garnish his monthly annuity payments to pay more than $178,000 in restitution, according to the DOJ. The annuity was from benefits that he received as a result of his late father’s teaching job.

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