AUSTIN (KXAN) — An arrest warrant for a vehicle theft also accuses the suspect of making a threat against the municipal judge who set his bond. John Shelton, 39, was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, but the filed warrant includes a handwritten note in the margin reading “defendant made threatening/retaliatory remarks regarding judge who set the bond amount. And specifically requested the name of the judge.”
The note was written by someone with the court at a time judge security is under the microscope following the shooting of Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek. Retired Judge Jon Wisser said it is an uncommon move, but he understood the sentiment behind it.
“This would tell any judge who would contemplate releasing this defendant on a personal recognizance (PR) bond that this defendant had threatened a fellow judge,” said Wisser, who is not connected to the case.
An attorney presents a copy of the arrest warrant to a judge when asking them sign off on releasing a defendant on a PR bond. The handwritten note documents the threat, which is rare according to Wisser.
“It is highly unusual for anyone to threaten a judge face-to-face.”
Threats against public servants doing their job are a felony offense and most commonly made against police officers. Some threats made in the courtroom may have been overlooked or brushed off in the past according to Wisser, but the Kocurek shooting may have changed that.
“Without a doubt, everyone is highly sensitive.”
There are more than 20 municipal judges who split time serve at the municipal court 24 hours a day and set bonds for defendants shortly after their arrest.
Shelton has been in and out of prison since 2005 and has multiple felonies on his record for crimes including money laundering and theft.