EL PASO, Texas — A filing in the state’s case against the accused Walmart shooter alleges a "representative" to El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, and his wife, impersonated the family of a shooting victim in an email sent to local media.
“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,” the court filing read.
Justin Underwood is the author of the court filing.
On August 17, Underwood was appointed by El Paso 409th District Judge Sam Medrano to represent the Hoffmann family in relation to a possible violation of a gag order.
Rosa Maria Valdez Garcia, Thomas Hoffmann, and Alexander Hoffmann are all family members of Walmart shooting victim Alexander Gerhard Hoffmann.
The possible gag order violation came on August 4, when El Paso media outlets, including ABC-7, received an email from an address associated with Valdez Garcia, and was signed by Alex Hoffmann.
The email accused one of ABC-7’s guests of violating the gag order for discussing the Walmart case on our newscast. The guest was Amanda Enriquez, a former prosecutor on the case.
Underwood alleges that Roger Rodriguez’s wife, Anne Rodriguez, wrote that email on Valdez Garcia’s phone and sent it to news outlets with the help of her husband. The court filing claims Valdez Garcia had no idea what was said in the email.
Roger Rodriguez, who is listed on the Village of Vinton's website as a municipal court judge, is not an employee of the district attorney’s office, according to El Paso County Human Resources, but during a judge recusal hearing on September 27, El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales said Rodriguez would sometimes act as a legal adviser.
Rosales said Rodriguez was giving advice in a lawsuit involving all Texas district attorneys against the governor.
The Hoffmann family told its attorney that Rodriguez repeatedly threatened them.
“Thomas Hoffmann informed me that Rodriguez stated that he always carried a weapon on his person and actually showed it to Thomas on occasion,” according to the court filing.
According to the report, Valdez Garcia said Rodriguez threatened her in late August while they were alone together. She alleges Rodriguez told her not to betray him and said that he had “snipers everywhere.”
The family also claims, according to the filing, Rodriguez told them, “if you go back for anything regarding the hearing, Yvonne Rosales would not look kindly on it. She has people everywhere.”
The Hoffmanns said in the filing that “Rodriguez stated he was acting as a representative of Yvonne Rosales.”
Underwood turned over all his evidence, including audio tapes of conversations between Rodriguez and the Hoffmanns, to federal agents with the FBI, according to the court report.
What happened in the July 1 meeting?
The filing shows Rodriguez was present during a meeting between the victims’ families and the District Attorney’s Office on July 1. The meeting happened immediately after a status hearing where Judge Sam Medrano issued a gag order in the case following statements Rosales made to media that she “hoped” the state case would go to trial in the summer of 2023.
The former lead prosecutor on the Walmart case, John Briggs, said Rodriguez and his wife were both present in that meeting, and that Rosales introduced them as members of her staff.
Briggs said Rodriguez told all of those in the room to file grievances against Judge Medrano to get him recused, and also claimed he had “recused a lot of other judges.”
Briggs said he challenged those statements and the two got into an argument. Briggs’s comments in the filing match with the comments he made under oath during the judge's recusal hearing on September 27.
The Hoffmann family says it was at that meeting, and it had been in contact with Rodriguez since it took place.
Hoffmann family tapes interactions with Rodriguez
According to the report, the Hoffmanns recorded three conversations with Rodriguez. Two of them are phone conversations and one was an in-person meeting, according to the filing. The conversations were all in Spanish and were translated into English in transcripts attached to the court filing.
ABC-7 reviewed those transcripts and they show Rodriguez spoke about faith, and good and evil when talking with the Hoffmanns.
The transcripts also show Rodriguez may have been trying to be appointed as the judge in the Walmart shooting case.
In an excerpt of one of the transcripts, Rodriguez is coaching Thomas Hoffmann on how to respond to questions about who wrote the email. The transcript reads like this:
Roger Rodriguez: “If they end up asking or if it is an important situation, ‘We both study at UTEP.’”
Thomas Hoffmann: “If who were to ask?”
Roger Rodriguez: “Whoever, I mean, so that you can have a story ready. ‘Hey, how did you make the statements?’ No, well, we got on Google, and we study at UTEP. Okay?”
Less than a minute later in that conversation, Rodriguez says, “Because if I succeed in being put in charge of that case, I will get rid of corrupt people. I will not even leave the scraps, so to speak. So, for my part right now, what are we going to do to avoid the judge, Thomas? Blows are coming for the judge,” the transcript read.
The court filing shows Rodriguez also had access to some evidence in the Walmart case. Rosales had said, under oath, during the September 27 recusal hearing, that Rodriguez had no access to any of the evidence in the Walmart shooting case, but the audio transcripts contradict that claim.
Rodriguez said during a phone call with the Hoffmanns on August 13 that he knew what the accused shooter said once police detained him.
The transcript shows Rodriguez said, “Something I want you to know is that Crusius, I do know what Crusius said, because I have had access.”
You can read the full transcripts at the bottom of this story.
The court filing alleges Rosales and Rodriguez made promises to the Hoffmann children, including a promise to obtain visas for both of them. That promise was never fulfilled, according to the court document.
Underwood said in his filing that the Hoffmanns would regularly make the trip from Ciudad Juárez across the border to meet with him at his office.
The court document says Valdez Garcia had obtained a Sentri pass, a special pass given to travelers who are deemed low-risk and can go across the border expeditiously, but on Sept. 17 officials with the Mexican Investigation Department appeared at the Hoffmanns home and tried to get the family to sign documents.
The family refused to sign the documents and Valdez Garcia's pass was revoked. On Sept. 19, while trying to cross the border, Valdez Garcia was allegedly detained by Customs and Border Protection officials for seven hours where she was forced to stay in a small cell and use a bathroom in public view, the document says.
Who is Jose Morales?
On Aug. 23, the district attorney's office says they received an email from Mexican attorney Jose Morales. That email says Morales is the attorney representing the Hoffmann family and they reject the representation of Underwood.
A signed affidavit from Alexander Hoffmann says he never contacted Morales and has never met him. The affidavit also says he identifies Underwood as his attorney.
Underwood alleges Rodriguez tried to get Valdez Garcia to sign an attorney contract with Morales in Ciudad Juárez, but she refused.
ABC-7 tried to reach out to Morales using the same email address from the court filings, but never received an answer.
Where is Rodriguez?
ABC-7 has tried to reach Roger Rodriguez. We called the Village of Vinton and left a message with a secretary, and we also went to the municipal office in person.
A staff member told ABC-7 that Rodriguez is only present at the building when there is a magistrate hearing.
ABC-7 asked if there was a docket available to see when the next case would be heard in its court, but were told there was no docket.
A secretary at Park University told ABC-7 that Rodriguez teaches a criminal justice class at the school, but that he would not be teaching there next semester.
ABC-7 has not been able to locate Rodriguez for an interview.
What is the status of Rosales's removal case?
The case to remove Rosales from her elected position still continues in the background of all of these accusations.
El Paso attorney Omar Carmona filed the petition to remove Rosales back on Aug. 24, citing incompetency and official misconduct for reasons she should be removed.
Carmona says the recent allegations can be added to the lawsuit as more evidence for the prosecution.
"If Ms. Rosales had any sense of decency, any sense of honor, she would do the right thing and resign right away. Before she goes, she should fire Mr. Cox for his role in all of this, but a change has to be made immediately," Carmona said.
A visiting judge approved a motion to continue the case and now it is up to El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal to make the decision whether or not to bring this case to a trial. By law, the county attorney has to prosecute any elected official removal case.
Bernal has until Nov. 1 to make a decision on going to trial.
ABC-7 asked the county attorney about the recent allegations against the district attorney's office and how it will impact the removal case. Bernal said she had no comment regarding this matter at this time.
Rosales was officially served on Sept. 26 and Texas law says she has to answer her citation within 10 days. Thursday is the deadline, and as of 4:30 p.m., she has not filed an answer.
It is unclear what the repercussions would be if she failed to meet her deadline.
Next steps for Walmart shooting case
A status hearing for the Walmart shooting case is set for next Tuesday, October 11, at 9 a.m.