DA failing to appear at Walmart hearing; former prosecutor ranked 5th

From El Paso Matters:

El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales failed to appear in court on Wednesday, prompting the district judge to schedule her Thursday afternoon hearing to explain why she should not testify via email related to the Walmart shooting case.

If Rosales doesn’t show up on Thursday, state district judge Sam Medrano Jr. said he would file a lawsuit to force her to show up – by arrest if necessary. A visibly upset judge told a packed courtroom that he “never” had to take such an extreme step during his time in court.

The guard told the judge that Rosales, who retired on the Monday of December 14, was seen entering the courthouse about an hour before she was due to appear in the Medrano courtroom. However, an attorney representing the district attorney’s office suggested that Rosales was not seen in the building’s CCTV footage.

In a dramatic moment, former Assistant District Attorney Curtis Cox, who had also been ordered by Medrano to attend the hearing, entered the courtroom three hours after it began. He previously served as chief prosecutor in the Walmart case before resigning this month.

Cox invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent so as not to incriminate himself when the defense team asked a series of questions representing the man accused of shooting 23 people at Cielo Vista Walmart on August 3, 2019. The defense blamed both Cox. and Rosales deliberately avoids numerous attempts to subpoena them on Wednesday.

The defense attempted to ask Cox a few questions about Rogelio “Roger” Rodriguez, Vinton’s municipal judge, who is also called Rosales’ “legal adviser”, who was connected to an email at the center of the hearing on Wednesday. These include whether Cox shared evidence with Rodriguez and whether Cox retaliated against the Ciudad Juarez-based family of victim Alexander Gerhard Hoffmann Roth.

Hoffman’s son, Thomas Hoffmann, testified Wednesday about how he, his brother and his mother contacted Rodriguez, a man they said was working on behalf of Rosales and the district attorney’s office.

Hoffmann, who broke down during his testimony, said through an interpreter that he felt betrayed by Rodriguez.

“He told us a lot of lies and wanted us to sign some papers, and I also think he wanted to take advantage of us,” Hoffmann testified.

Thomas Hoffmann, the son of the Walmart shooting victim, was called Wednesday to testify about his family’s interactions with Roger Rodriguez.
Corrie Boudreau / El Paso Matters

Hoffmann testified that Rodriguez and his wife used his mother’s mobile phone on August 4 to send an email composed by the Rodriguez to local media criticizing Judge Medrano and the former prosecutor assigned to the case. The allegation was first made in an October 6 report filed by attorney Justin Underwood, who Medrano has appointed to represent the family.

A subsequent report by El Paso Matters revealed that all email recipients were part of a media mailing list maintained by the DA’s office.

Alexander Hoffman’s widow, Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia, briefly attended the testimony, during which she corroborated her son’s testimony. Upon learning of the attorney representing the DA’s office at the hearing, Valdez contorted her face to show visible disgust and rolled her eyes.

Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia, widow of the victim of the Walmart shooting, testifies about her relationship with Roger Rodriguez during Wednesday’s hearing.
Corrie Boudreau / El Paso Matters

Wednesday’s hearing was originally scheduled so Medrano could determine whether the family violated the July 1 non-disclosure order that he placed on all parties in the case. The family is listed as potential witnesses at the sentencing stage of the trial.

Medrano’s decision that the family had never violated his order was an outburst during the afternoon session.

The focus now is on whether Rosales will show up on Thursday and if she will answer questions if she does.

The FBI obtained audio recordings made by Thomas Hoffmann of his family’s conversations with Rodriguez, according to Wednesday’s testimony. Underwood also filed a complaint with the Texas Bar Association accusing Cox of numerous felonies related to his involvement with Rodriguez and the family, Cox testified.

Justin Underwood questions his client Thomas Hoffmann about his family’s relationship with Roger Rodriguez at Wednesday’s hearing.
Corrie Boudreau / El Paso Matters

In interviews with reporters after the hearing, Underwood called Rosales, Cox, and Rodriguez “cowards” several times and praised the Hoffmann family for their courage in exposing their actions.

“The courage of this family to do what they did, after going through what they had to go through, I don’t know any more courageous people I have ever met than this family,” Underwood said.

Read Twitter’s walkthrough of Wednesday’s hearing from Robert Moore of El Paso Matters:

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