El Paso DA alleges “retaliation” for not dropping the death penalty in Walmart mass shooting case.
EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) - El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General alleges the effort to remove her from office is “severe retaliation” for not being willing to drop the death penalty charge in the 2019 Walmart mass shooting case according to a recent court filing.
“In light of the extreme political nature and recent focus of the case, I am considering asking for the assistance of the Attorney General of Texas in the prosecution and handling of this case,” Rosales wrote in a Sept. 13 letter filed with the court.
The letter to U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland and others alleges a conspiracy against her because she refused “defense counsel Joe Spencer’s demands that I remove the death penalty,” the letter reads.
Spencer is representing accused gunman Patrick Crusius in both the state and federal cases. Crusius is charged with killing 23 shoppers and injuring at least 23 others in the August 3, 2019 attack at a Walmart in El Paso. He was arrested near the store and the then 21-year-old told police he drove from North Texas to El Paso“to stop the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Rosales’ letter was also addressed to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoffman, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit, the Texas 4th Administrative Judicial Region, attorney Joe Spencer and U.S. Judge David Guaderrama who is overseeing the federal case.
The district attorney wrote she is considering asking the Texas Attorney General's Office for help prosecuting and handling the mass shooting case.
Rosales claims her office has been subject to bomb threats and harassment by a court appointed attorney representing one of the Walmart victims’ relatives.
A bomb threat was reported at the County Courthouse on Aug. 1, two days before the mass shooting’s anniversary. It was made on social media, according to El Paso county Judge Ricardo Samanigo.
Spokeswomen for the city of El Paso and El Paso County Sheriff's Office say authorities were alerted to a bomb threat made toward the courthouse and DA's office on Aug. 1. Neither have been notified of threats made toward the District Attorney's Office since.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office says the case is still active and a suspect has not been identified. She said the threat was determined not to be credible.
"We have not received any information regarding threats of a criminal nature against the District Attorney," a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office wrote in an email to KTEP.
Rosales, is currently battling a petition to remove her from office by attorney Omar Carmona alleging "official misconduct and incompetence." On Thursday, District Court Judge Tryon Lewis ordered the petition proceed.
A hearing to consider whether District Court Judge Sam Medrano will continue to preside is set for Monday. The DA's office on September 9th submitted a request to remove Medrano from the case alleging he developed a “personal animus” toward Rosales.
The hearing is before Judge Sid Harle of the Texas 4th Administrative Judicial Region.
Rosales’ complaint stemmed from a July 1 hearing when Medrano sternly questioned the DA about statements she made to the media about when the state case would go to trial. Medrano issued a gag order for all involved in the case at the hearing.
“This court continues to prepare for the trial of this case but this course is not going to interfere with the federal trial that has been scheduled in January of 2024,” Medrano told Rosales during that hearing.
Rosales claims in the letter that during the July 1 hearing, Spencer read a statement that was a “clear attack” on the DA’s person and administration.
“The introduction of statements without laying the foundation is Joe Spencer’s inappropriate effort to pit the state case against the federal case in an attempt to delay both cases, since he has a staff of 16 people receiving taxpayer funds with no clear accountability.”
KTEP has reached out to Spencer for comment and the district attorney’s office for comment but both remain under a gag order.