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An attorney who has been described as the district attorney’s “legal advisor” was behind a pair of mysterious emails that have come to dominate the 2019 Walmart mass shooting state capital murder case, a new court filing alleges.
“I am convinced that the emails purportedly sent from an email address associated with the Hoffmann family actually originated with someone in the Office of the District Attorney, to include District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, Roger Rodriguez, ADA Curtis Cox and potentially other upper management staff of the DA’s Office to advance their own agenda,” reads a Thursday filing by attorney Justin Underwood.
Those emails are at the heart of an Oct. 11 hearing in which state District Court Judge Sam Medrano Jr. is expected to determine whether the Hoffmanns, the family of one of the 23 people killed at the Walmart, violated the gag order he set for all attorneys and witnesses in the case.
Underwood’s filing, called an ad litem report, includes transcripts of audio recordings of Rodriguez made by the Hoffman family and sworn statements that reveal Rodriguez vowed to have Medrano removed from the case, with threatening actions if necessary. At one point, Rodriguez appears to claim that he will eventually be appointed to oversee the case.
Medrano appointed Underwood to represent the family in a hearing regarding the gag order, which was initially set for mid-August and was delayed while the district attorney’s motion to recuse Medrano played out in court.
Allegations of Rodriguez’s involvement in these emails first arose during the Sept. 27 recusal hearing in which a visiting judge ruled that Medrano could stay on the case.
Rodriguez has been the Vinton municipal judge since 2007, according to the village’s website. He is not employed by the District Attorney’s Office; however, he has represented Rosales or her office on at least two legal matters, including a Texas Ethics Code violation that was ultimately withdrawn. A former prosecutor who testified during the recusal hearing described him as her “legal advisor.”
Rodriguez could not be reached for comment. A village employee said the judge was not in the office Thursday.
A spokesperson for Rosales did not return an email requesting comment.
Underwood’s court filing asserts that Rodriguez’s wife, Anne, used Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia’s cell phone to email dozens of El Paso journalists on Aug. 4.
Valdez is the widow of Walmart shooting victim Alexander Gerhard Hoffmann Roth, a German citizen who lived in Ciudad Juárez, and who reportedly shared three children with her.
The email – which contained the signature of Valdez’s son, Alexander Hoffmann, and appeared to come from Valdez’s personal email address – attacked former prosecutor Amanda Enriquez for giving an interview about the case on the shooting’s three-year anniversary. It accused Enriquez of “using this case for political purposes” but did not elaborate.
The email also noted that multiple complaints had been filed against Medrano and that he was under investigation.
The recipients of the email largely matched media distribution lists used by the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office to send news releases, according to documents El Paso Matters obtained under the Texas Public Information Act.
“Anne Rodriguez, the wife of Roger Rodriguez, working for the Office of the District Attorney, used Mrs. Valdez’s cell phone to compose and send the emails with the assistance of Roger Rodriguez,” according to the filing. Valdez “had no knowledge of what the emails contained or where they were being sent.”
This allegation is based on affidavits given by Valdez and her sons Alexander and Thomas, in addition to 110 minutes of recorded conversations between the family and Rodriguez.
The family began secretly recording their interactions with him due to his “aberrant behavior and the fact that he was representing District Attorney Yvonne Rosales,” the filing states. It further notes that Underwood submitted this evidence to the FBI.
Underwood declined to comment on his report.
Underwood’s filing also alleges that Rodriguez attempted to intimidate Valdez, unsuccessfully, into signing a contract with Juárez-based attorney Jose Morales. Morales purportedly emailed Medrano on Aug. 24 to inform the judge that he was now representing the Hoffmanns and that they would not be attending any future hearings. Any efforts to compel them to attend – and testify – “will be reported to the Mexican authorities for prosecution,” the email stated.
Defense attorneys representing the alleged Walmart shooter have charged the District Attorney’s Office with seeking Medrano’s removal as a way to hide details about Rodriguez’s involvement in the case that would have been revealed through the Hoffmanns’ testimony.
Rodriguez says he wants to “weaken the judge,” whom Rodriguez calls “corrupt,” “racist” and a “Hispanic thug,” according to a translated transcript of a recorded meeting between Rodriguez, his wife, Valdez and her sons where they spoke in Spanish. “The DA is an enemy of the judge,” he said.
In an Aug. 13 phone call with the family, Rodriguez refers to multiple conspiracies regarding the shooting, and alleges that El Paso Matters CEO Robert Moore is part of efforts to upend the prosecution of the case and to have Rosales removed from office.
Rosales later publicly accused Moore and Underwood of being part of a “political conspiracy” to oust her in her response to a September removal petition (which is part of an unrelated case). Moore has called her response an attempt “to use the courts to intimidate and suppress a news organization whose coverage she doesn’t like.”
Underwood’s report said the Hoffmann family informed him that the DA’s office planned to attack Medrano, Enriquez and Moore. “Hard blows are coming against the enemies,” Rodriguez told the family in an Aug. 31 call.
That same day, an anonymous person filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service challenging El Paso Matters’ tax-exempt status. Nine days later, Rosales filed the motion to recuse Medrano.
Rodriguez rambles throughout the recordings, evoking his faith and frequently referencing Jesus Christ and God, who he says “is testing us.”
He dominates the conversations and repeatedly advises the family to not show up to future court hearings, even if they are legally compelled to do so.
The family, Underwood’s filing states, “are in constant fear of retaliation by the District Attorney’s Office and Roger Rodriguez.”
Valdez’s affidavit says Rodriguez threatened her not to betray him during a meeting they had on Aug. 23, saying he has “very good (snipers).” In the Aug. 31 call, Rodriguez denied making such a threat.
Rodriguez, according to transcripts, had promised to secure the Hoffmanns “U” visas in exchange for their collaboration. This type of visa is reserved for victims of certain crimes.
But the plan quickly went awry when Elise Hoffman-Taus, the victim’s daughter, doubted the authenticity of the Aug. 4 email in a statement to Channel 9-KTSM. “Not only is Alexander Hoffmann not fluent and eloquent in the English language, but he lacks the capabilities of writing such emails,” she told the TV station, an assertion her brother Thomas repeated during the Aug. 31 phone call.
“Everything would have turned out alright, but no one told us about your sister,” Rodriguez said during that call. In it, Rodriguez tells Thomas Hoffmann that his family had “approved” the emailed statement, though Hoffmann maintains his mother didn’t – and couldn’t have – written it.
“Honestly, we don’t want our family’s name to be used to make a circus, and we feel used, okay,” Hoffmann says in the transcript, adding that he believed other victims’ families were also going to release statements to the media.
“The family’s name is not being used for anything right now, zero. … And there were several families,” Rodriguez responds. “And I’ll tell you one thing, no one used you at all. The statements that were made were to get rid of the judge.”