Crime & Justice

Courts, trials and crime coverage for Austin and the Central Texas region.

Officials Release Indictment Filed Against Suspect In El Paso Shooting

51 minutes ago
A woman leaves a message at a memorial for victims of the El Paso shooting
Armando Morales

Officials in Texas on Wednesday released the grand jury indictment filed last week against a man accused of killing 22 people at an El Paso Walmart last month.

Crystal Mason
Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

FORT WORTH — When Crystal Mason got out of federal prison, she said, she “got out running.”

By Nov. 8, 2016, when she’d been out for months but was still on supervised release, she was working full-time at Santander Bank in downtown Dallas and enrolled in night classes at Ogle Beauty School, trying, she said, to show her children that a “bump in the road doesn’t determine your future.”

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

There’s been a lot of confusion about the difference between marijuana and hemp since Texas legalized the production and sale of hemp in June.

The short? Marijuana is still very much illegal at the state and national level. But the new law created a distinction that’s left some prosecutors in a bit of a pickle.

Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney, at a Travis County press briefing in 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin on Wednesday claims  Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and an employee in her office lied to the public about a sexual assault victim.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The founder of a Texas company that sells plans for making untraceable 3D printed guns has been sentenced to seven years of probation for having sex with an underage girl.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The University of Texas says it has developed the first-ever guide to help police departments and communities notify victims about results of their sexual assault kits.

Shooting suspect Seth Ator's house near Odessa.
Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio

The gunman in a West Texas rampage that left seven dead obtained his AR-style rifle through a private sale, allowing him to evade a federal background check that blocked him from getting a gun in 2014 due to a “mental health issue,” a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Sen. Jane Nelson, Sen. Larry Taylor, Gov. Greg Abbott and Rep. Greg Bonnen
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

After the second Texas mass shooting in a month, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday night that "we're working on a legislative package right now" and that "expedited executions for mass murderers would be a nice addition."

At a press conference Sunday in Odessa, Texas, FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said that the nation is now averaging an active shooter incident “every other week,” a broad term used by the FBI to describe someone “attempting to kill people in a populated area.

Not all of these incidents escalate to the level of a mass shooting.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that the gunman in Saturday's mass shooting in Midland and Odessa had previously failed a gun purchase background check and did not go through a background check to buy the gun used Saturday.

A diagram used to mark injuries during a sexual assault exam
Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas lawmakers added more than $75 million to the budget in the last legislative session for sexual assault-related initiatives. 

Increasing Numbers Of Americans Support Gun Background Checks

Aug 23, 2019
Guns on a shelf at a store
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

In the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, public debate once again turned to what Congress should do to reduce gun violence.

The location of a botched drug raid in Houston
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

A former Houston police officer has been charged with felony murder in connection with a deadly January drug raid that killed a couple and injured several officers, prosecutors announced Friday.

Central Texas Gun Works
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

A 23-year-old man arrested last week in Pease Park with several weapons, including an AR-15-type rifle, should not have been allowed to buy the weapon, according to the gun store owner.  

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

For decades, a staunch claim of innocence and doubts over forensic science engulfed the death penalty case of Larry Swearingen. On Wednesday, he was executed in Texas' death chamber.

Screenshot via YouTube

Williamson County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to end an arrangement with the cable show "Live PD” after the District Attorney's Office requested raw video from the show be kept as evidence. The series follows law enforcement agencies in various locations around the county.

Stand with Survivors rally
Salvador Castro for KUT

Austin had the highest number of rapes reported in large Texas cities in 2017. The rate of reported rapes that year was also nearly 40% higher than U.S. cities of similar size

The Travis County District Attorney says law enforcement responded to more than 600 adult sexual assault allegations that year. Only one person was found guilty by a jury. 

And that case wasn't from Austin. 

Former Austin Police Sgt. Elizabeth Donegan
Julia Reihs / KUT

Part II in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is a crime that can happen to anyone, but women are twice as likely to be victimized in Texas. In a 2015 study, UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault found 1 in 5 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. But for women, it's 2 in 5.

Marina Garrett, sexual assault survivor
Julia Reihs / KUT

Part I in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

Warning: This story contains a graphic description of sexual assault.

When I first met with Marina Garrett, she was preparing to graduate from UT Austin. Like most seniors, she said she was nervous but excited. It was an especially significant moment for Garrett because, for a long time, she didn’t think it would happen.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore
Julia Reihs / KUT

Part III in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Only 5 out of 1,000 rapists will go to prison in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The numbers aren’t much better when zoomed in locally.

A crowd during SXSW in 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Part IV in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

At an Austin City Council meeting in January, a large number of people had signed up to give public testimony on the last item on the agenda. Most were women; each wore a yellow bandana – a sign of solidarity for sexual assault survivors.

Marina Garrett was one of them.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The founder of an Austin-based company that sells plans for making untraceable 3D-printed guns pleaded guilty Friday to injury to a child under a plea deal with prosecutors.

Galveston Police Chief Apologizes After Mounted Officers Lead Man By Rope

Aug 6, 2019
Adrienne Bell via Facebook

Galveston’s police chief is apologizing after two of his officers, mounted on horseback, led a handcuffed suspect by a rope through downtown streets.

The El Paso community attends a vigil for Javier Amir Rodriguez
Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio

Updated on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m. CST

Community members gathered for a vigil in El Paso on Monday night to honor the youngest victim of the mass shooting at a Walmart store on Saturday.

Facebook Live screengrab

The reward has been raised to $110,000 for information identifying the person who started a fire last summer at the Iconic Village Apartments near the Texas State University campus in San Marcos. The fire killed five people and injured many more.

Texas State Trooper car
Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Texas’ largest law enforcement agency is moving away from arresting people for low-level marijuana offenses. It’s the latest development in the chaos that has surrounded pot prosecution after state lawmakers legalized hemp this year.

The Travis County Courthouse in downtown Austin
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a revised plan to set up a grant-funded office to provide legal services to low-income defendants.

A man cuts a marijuana plant.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Months before Texas district attorneys started dropping or delaying low-level marijuana cases, state lawmakers were told that a well-liked bill to legalize hemp was going to complicate pot prosecutions.

The warnings fell flat.

Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney, at a Travis County press briefing in 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore resigned from the state’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force on Friday. Her appointment was cut short after critics, including survivors suing over Moore’s record of handling sexual assaults, expressed concern

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

The U.S. government is poised to carry out the death penalty for the first time in nearly two decades, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to change the federal execution protocol to include capital punishment, the Justice Department said.

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