News & Politics

Texas Rangers May Be Investigating Witness Tampering Allegation Against Travis County's DA in Austin Protest Shooting Case

Official portrait of Travis County DA Jose Garza. From his official government website.

On Wednesday, after PJ Media exclusively reported that Austin police detective David Fugitt accused Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza’s office of felony witness tampering in the Sgt. Daniel Perry case, a hearing was held in the 147th Criminal District Court. Fugitt made the allegation in a sworn affidavit. Sgt. Perry’s defense attorneys filed a motion to hold a hearing on Garza’s conduct as alleged in Fugitt’s affidavit. In that filing, Perry’s defense attorneys say Det. Fugitt found that Perry shot Foster on the night of July 25, 2020, in self-defense and that Foster “was a criminal killed in commission of a crime.” District Attorney Garza nevertheless took the case to an Austin grand jury, which indicted Perry.

Perry is an Army sergeant serving at Ft. Hood. Austin is a Democrat stronghold.

Judge Clifford Brown presided over that hearing in his 147th Court on Wednesday.

As several local media outlets reported, Judge Brown denied Perry’s motion for a hearing on Garza’s alleged conduct. That’s true. What they failed to report was that his motion was denied “without prejudice” pending the results of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Texas Rangers.

The Texas Rangers now handle public integrity investigations in Texas. Such investigations once fell under the authority of the Travis County District Attorney’s office itself, but a series of politicized prosecutions including those of then-Gov. Rick Perry, then-Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison, and then-Rep. Tom DeLay, all Republicans, led the legislature to change the law and move public integrity prosecutions away from the office, which has long been controlled by partisan Democrats, to the impartial Texas Rangers, the state’s top law enforcement agency. Allegations such as the witness tampering accusation that Det. Fugitt leveled at DA Garza and his office would fall under that purview, with the Texas Rangers. The news about the Rangers investigation came in comments from one of Perry’s defense attorneys during the hearing, and Judge Brown indicated his awareness of that investigation as he dismissed the motion without prejudice. It can and likely will come up again in the case. The Texas Rangers customarily will neither confirm nor deny whether an investigation is ongoing.

Det. David Fugitt is an 18-year veteran with the APD, with a reputation for solving even the most difficult cases. KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman have both profiled the prolific detective. He was the lead detective on the Perry case.

Fugitt, 48, recently reached a career milestone no other Austin homicide investigator has ever matched: He opened his 50th homicide investigation as the lead detective.

“To hang in there and continue to do this kind of work, it shows his passion, his dedication to the cases and to the people,” Eric De Los Santos, Fugitt’s sergeant, tells me. “Nobody hits 50.”

Fugitt, who was awarded the Rotary Club of Austin’s Detective of the Year Award in 2019, also recently received a coveted Chief’s Coin for meritorious service from Police Chief Brian Manley to mark his milestone.

Of the 50 cases in which Fugitt has served as the lead detective, he has solved all but four.

In his sworn affidavit, Fugitt clearly accuses DA Garza’s office of felony witness tampering.

I firmly believe the District Attorney’s Office, acting under the authority of Jose P. Garza, tampered with me as a witness. Often witness tampering is subtle. In this case, there were foreseeable consequences if I did not comply and tailor my grand jury presentation as directed and failure to do so would adversely affect my working relationship with the District Attorney’s Office for the foreseeable future. I was afforded no choice but to comply with the directives that were issued to me by Jose Garza through his assistants.

I am familiar with the crime of witness tampering as set out in the Texas Penal Code and under the circumstances believe myself to be a victim of such tampering. Furthermore, in coordination with my direct chain of command, I sought legal advice from Chris Coppola, Assistant City Attorney.

Late Wednesday night, after the hearing in the 147th Criminal District Court, Perry defense attorney Douglas O’Connell dropped this bombshell on Twitter.

Austin
Tweet by Sgt. Daniel Perry defense attorney Douglas O’Connell.

That’s after the hearing in Judge Brown’s court. O’Connell names APD Assistant Chief Richard Guajardo in his tweet. If what O’Connell says in the tweet is true, and the Texas Rangers are investigating the original complaint that Det. Fugitt leveled at the DA’s office in his sworn affidavit, the investigation may have to expand. O’Connell seems to be calling for just that to happen by tagging the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety.