EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Following a day of dramatic courtroom testimony in the Walmart case, Judge Sam Medrano ruled the Hoffmann family did not violate the gag order placed on the court on July 1.
After District Attorney Yvonne Rosales failed to appear in court Wednesday, Medrano issued a show cause for her to appear before his court Thursday afternoon, or else he will issue a Writ of Attachment, allowing her to be taken into custody for violating the court’s orders.
The DA’s office sent Assistant District Attorney Kyle Vance to represent the State in the hearing, despite Vance not being assigned to the Walmart case and only being on the job at the DA’s office for three months.
Former Assistant District Attorney Curtis Cox was also initially ordered to appear Wednesday and was not there when the hearing began at 1 p.m. More than three and a half hours later, Cox appeared in Judge Medrano’s court with his attorney, Robin Norris.
During questioning from the accused Walmart shooter’s defense team, Cox invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to nearly a dozen questions, including what actions he took with Rodger Rodriguez to intimidate the Hoffmann family.
Wednesday’s hearing stemmed from a series of e-mails purportedly written by the son of Alexander Gerhard Hoffmann, one of the victims of the Walmart shooting. The e-mails were sent to local media outlets criticizing former Assistant District Attorney Amanda Enriquez and Judge Sam Medrano on August 4.
KTSM was the first to report the daughter of Alexander Hoffmann did not believe her brother could have authored the e-mails because he is not fluent in English and lacked the ‘mental capacity to do so.’
During testimony, Thomas Hoffmann, the son of victim Alexander Hoffman, testified his brother had ‘some form of autism’ that prevented him from communicating effectively or writing e-mails like the one sent to local media on August 4.
Hoffmann became visibly emotional on the stand as he described through a translator the intimidation he felt from Vinton Municipal Judge Roger Rodriguez, who he believed was acting on behalf of DA Rosales.
He testified that Rodriguez was introduced to the families of the Walmart victims after the July 1 hearing by DA Rosales and then asked to meet with the family at Stanton House in Downtown El Paso later in the week. He testified another woman who was also the family of another Walmart victim was also present, but he did not know her name. Thomas told the court that Rodriguez began spouting conspiracy theories, including telling them there were at least two shooters on August 3.
In dramatic testimony, Thomas explained that Rodriguez displayed a gun during one meeting, and the family felt threatened by his actions. So much so that Thomas said his mother told him it would be wise for the family to record all of their interactions with him, which was later introduced as evidence in the case.
The Hoffmann’s attorney, Justin Underwood, advised the court he did not intend to call Rosa Valdez Hoffmann to the stand, believing that Thomas Hoffmann gave enough testimony for Judge Medrano to determine the family did not violate his gag order. Instead, Vance called her to the stand to question her at length about her marital status with Alexander Hoffmann at the time of his death. Rosa testified that the couple was divorced but never separated and was still living together at the time of his death on August 3, 2019.
The State called just one witness, Barry Dickey, a forensic audio and video analyst. Dickey was introduced by the State in court filings Tuesday as a potential expert after their original audio expert was unwilling to travel to El Paso to testify. Dickey testified for more than two hours, and much of the questioning was technical. Dickey testified the audio recordings of the Hoffmann family and Roger Rodriguez contained anomalies but also testified it could be possible the recordings were stopped and restarted. His testimony did not refute the contents of the recordings.
After determining that Hoffmanns did not violate the gag order and releasing attorney Justin Underwood from the case, the judge called the court into recess and advised the parties to appear Thursday afternoon to resume testimony. Rosales is ordered to appear at Thursday’s hearing.