Judge recuses herself from 4 Austin Police Department officer cases
AUSTIN, Texas - The judge in charge of 4 out of 19 cases against Austin Police Department officers for their alleged excessive use of force during the May 2020 protests has filed a motion to recuse herself from all those cases.
Court documents obtained by FOX 7 Austin say the judge felt the officer indictments were "politically motivated."
On Tuesday, Judge Julie Kocurek of the 390th District Court filed four voluntary recusal motions for the cases of Officer Stanley Vick, Joshua Jackson, Justin Berry, and Joseph Cast for their use of force during the May 2020 protests.
This came one day after the Travis County District Attorney’s Office filed court documents claiming Judge Kocurek felt betrayed by the indictments of APD officers.
In the documents, it references a conversation held over the phone by Assistant District Attorney Dexter Gilford and the Judge on Feb. 17, 2022.
In it, it says Gilford sent Judge Kocurek an email the day 20 indictments against 19 Austin police officers for their use of force in the 2020 protests to make her aware.
A call was held that same day between Gilford and Kocurek, per her request.
During it, Gilford says the judge told him, "she felt betrayed. I asked why she felt betrayed, and she told me that she felt this was because there were so many indictments against police officers."
The court documents later say he nor any other member of the DA’s office told Judge Kocurek the details of the indictment before she impaneled the Grand Jury. However, he says it is not common practice to tell the judge any details.
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Gilford says the Judge added on the phone call that she enjoyed a good relationship with law enforcement in Travis County and "she believed the prosecution of the cases arising out of the Austin George Floyd protests were the consequence of a politically motivated campaign on the part of Jose Garza, the Travis County District Attorney."
Gilford adds in the court documents that told her that was not the case.
FOX 7 Austin reached out to Judge Kocurek for a statement on her motion to recuse herself for the four officer cases she was assigned to:
"I am recusing myself not because I have a bias or prejudice against the State, but rather to ensure public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
In filing these motions, I think it is important to put my conversation with Mr. Gilford into context. My perception of our discussion somewhat differs from Mr. Gilford’s.
As the judge who impaneled the special grand jury, it was my responsibility to set bail in these cases. The purpose of my call was to discuss the bail to be set in these cases. I had just received a call from the clerk and/or jail indicating that there were 20 uniformed police officers waiting to be booked into jail and they were waiting on me to set bail in each of their cases. Moments later, I received a call from one of the attorneys of the police officers indicating that the District Attorney’s Office had agreed to setting a one dollar bail on each of these first degree felony offenses. This was highly unusual. These types of communications happen frequently in setting bail. I was calling to confirm this information with Mr. Gilford.
Due to the recent filing by the State, I believe my impartiality will be in question by some in the community. The perception of others is important, especially in cases like these."
FOX 7 Austin also reached out to the District Attorney’s Office, a spokesperson for Travis County DA Jose Garza said the office would not be providing any comments at this time.