Onyeri accused of lying as he claims to ‘not recall’ details of ATM scheme

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Chimene Onyeri doesn’t like to be called certain words. Thief is one of them.

Despite admitting to placing cameras on ATM machines to gather card information from unsuspecting individuals, Oneryi grew frustrated and upset when Prosecutor Gregg Sofer used the word “thief” to describe his actions.

“You’re using steal so bad, Sofe. You gotta use better words than that,” Onyeri, who appears to have given the lead prosecutor a nickname, said during day 16 of testimony in his federal trial.

Onyeri is accused of orchestrating the 2015 assassination attempt of Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek. He was wanted in Travis County for violating his probation in connection with a case in Kocurek’s courtroom for facing new allegations related to debit card fraud.

During Onyeri’s testimony on Thursday, he said he was willing to take responsibility for what he’s done, so Sofer said he’s just trying to figure out what all that might be.

Onyeri said he doesn’t consider the people whose credit card information he stole to be victims since the bank would reimburse them for the funds, he testified.

When Sofer asked Onyeri if he went out of his way to make sure the skimming victims got their money back from the bank, Onyeri said, “I always did that. Facts.”

Onyeri said he didn’t consider banks to be victims, either.

“They take from us so much. High-interest rates,” Onyeri said, later adding, “They were charging me $12 a month to hold my money… It’s just a lot going on with banks. I’m just not really big on banks.”

At one point during this testimony, Onyeri said, “I really don’t like putting people in harm’s way.” 

Sofer asked him, “Do you think shooting into a car four times puts people in harm’s way?”

Onyeri hesitated before testifying, “That’s a little different. I didn’t even know she was in the car,” referring to the night Kocurek was shot.

He previously testified he didn’t intend to kill anyone and he didn’t know anyone was inside when he fired a gunshot into Kocurek’s vehicle’s window and injured her. He did say on Thursday that he was happy because he destroyed some of her property.

When prosecutors asked Onyeri about a visit to Kocurek’s home weeks before the shooting, he said he didn’t have a gun at that time. Later, prosecutors asked him about a gun, to which Onyeri responded with “You know what I’m saying.”

Oftentimes throughout the trial, Onyeri avoided directly answering questions from the prosecution by using similar phrases or by mumbling or speaking in incomplete thoughts.

For example, when Sofer asked, “What kind of gun?” Onyeri responded with “it was a gun.”

Sofer restated his questions about the gun Onyeri said he used the day of the shooting. Onyeri previously said he didn’t bring a gun with him, but added that he’s owned that gun for “months.”

Sofer asked Onyeri where the gun came from.

“I mean. I mean. I had the gun,” Onyeri testified.

“So the gun magically appeared … here in Austin Nov. 6,” Sofer said.

“It didn’t magically appear,” Onyeri said, still trying not to offer up details about the gun’s origin. Onyeri’s defense attorney intervened, saying Sofer was being argumentative, but U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said that Onyeri wasn’t answering the question.

Onyeri also testified about the moments leading up to the shooting, including placing a bag of leaves from a nearby area and placed it in front of the Kocurek’s gate. 

Surveillance video from the day before the shooting shows Onyeri at an Austin store purchasing a pair of gloves. He says he purchased the gloves for ATM skimming. Prosecutors asked Onyeri if he had the gloves with him when he arrived at the Kocurek’s home the night of the shooting.

“I think I left them … I didn’t have no, uh,” Onyeri said as he paused and trailed off for a moment. “I still, I still have them gloves.”

Onyeri recalled laughing when he saw Kocurek’s son, Will, pull into the driveway the night of the shooting and move the bag of leaves.

“I just shot at the car, at the window. He ran off that other way,” Onyeri testified.

Prosecution’s questions

There were a handful of times throughout the trial when Yeakel had to intervene and tell Onyeri to answer Sofer’s questions.

Early in the cross-examination, Onyeri was hesitant to name individuals he was involved with during an alleged credit card skimming scheme.

“I can’t divulge that, Sofe,” Onyeri told the prosecutor.

Onyeri grew frustrated when Sofer said if they show a photo of the people in the alleged scheme, he’ll say something, but otherwise he wouldn’t.

Judge Yeakel also intervened then, saying, “Mr. Onyeri, if you know the names, you must answer the question and say the names.”

When Sofer pressed Onyeri again on the issue, Onyeri paused for a while and said, “I don’t recall.”

“And that’s not true is it? That’s a lie. You know their names, don’t you?” Sofer said.

Onyeri gave nicknames or initials for individuals and claimed he doesn’t know the people’s “government names,” meaning the names on their driver’s license or birth certificate.

Onyeri also said he doesn’t believe some of the things the prosecution’s 60 witnesses who were called said throughout the trial.

“There was a little double-crossing going on,” Onyeri testified.

Testimony will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday, with closing arguments expected to take place on Wednesday. Follow KXAN.com for updates.

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