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Decision to remove judge in Walmart mass shooting case postponed

Sid Harle hearing crop.jpg
Texas administrative judge Sid Harle holds a preliminary hearing on whether District Court Judge Sam Medrano will be removed from the El Paso Walmart mass shooting case.

EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) - A hearing to decide whether El Paso District Court Judge Sam Medrano will be removed from the Walmart mass shooting case has been postponed.

State Administrative Judge Sid Harle during a short zoom meeting granted the District Attorney’s office’s request for more time to prepare witnesses and other evidence.

The hearing is rescheduled for next Tuesday. The D-A’s office wants Judge Medrano’s recusal alleging he displayed “personal animus” against DA Yvonne Rosales during a July 1st hearing. Defense attorneys for the accused gunman Patrick Crusius call the allegations "meritless."

Attorneys Mark Stevens and Joe Spencer in a new court filing detailed their position.

“Only now, facing a hearing before Judge Medrano that it did not want heard, does the State complain, by way of a motion to recuse,” Stevens wrote in a court filing. “The State’s recusal motion contains no support whatsoever, legal or factual, for its claim that Judge Medrano’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Only now, facing a hearing before Judge Medrano that it did not want heard, does the State complain, by way of a motion to recuse
Attorney Mark Stevens

The attorneys also allege Roger Rodriguez, a municipal court judge in Vinton, attended a meeting organized by the district attorney with victims and relatives of victims of the mass shooting where he urged the families to file grievances against Medrano, according to Stevens’ filing.

Stevens alleges Judge Rogelio “Roger” Rodriguez and his wife entered the conference room at the DA’s office with Rosales, according to the filing.

The filing states Assistant District Attorney Briggs told the victims and families that they could not talk about the case because of the gag order and Rodriguez took over.

“Rodriguez began stoking the crowd, getting them angry, wanting them to turn on the Court,” according to the court filing. “Rodriguez said he was a judge, and that what Judge Medrano did was wrong and unethical. Rodriguez told the group“we are going to get the Judge recused,” and that he had recused at least a dozen Judges.”

It is unclear what role Rodriguez has with the district attorney’s office. He’s been subpoenaed in the case to provide testimony, according to court documents.

He was appointed to his position by the Village of Vinton, Texas City Council in 2007, according to the village’s website. Rodriguez is not an employee of the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, according to the latest personnel records from the county. KTEP has reached out to Rodriguez for comment but did not get a response by publication.

Both the DA’s office and defense attorneys have been ordered by the court not to discuss the case with the media. The hearing was the first since a July 1 hearing when judge Medrano questioned DA Yvonne Rosales about her statements in the media.

Stevens argued in a court filing Judge Medrano’s decision to impose a gag order and appoint an attorney to represent one of the victims’ families was appropriate.