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District Attorney In Daniel Perry Trial Accused Of Deleting Evidence

Haley Kennington

Army Sgt. Daniel Perry’s highly publicized case has taken an unexpected turn.

On Friday, after less than two days of deliberation, a Travis County jury found Perry guilty of murder. Perry shot and killed an armed BLM protester during an Austin riot in 2020. The riot was in response to the death of suspected criminal George Floyd who died in May of the same year.

Known now as the “summer of love”, rioting in the streets in major cities across the United States was common in response to Floyd’s death. Floyd, who died in police custody, was thought to have suffocated from a police officer kneeling on his neck. However, it is more likely that he passed from a massive drug overdose when he ingested a lethal amount of fentanyl shortly before being arrested.

The US’s “summer of love” resulted in businesses being looted. Buildings were burned to the ground. Cars were set alight. Thousands of people marched in the streets.

It was during one of these destructive protests that Perry found himself facing off with an armed man, BLM protestor Garrett Foster. Foster, an Air Force veteran, age 28 at the time, was seen weaving through the crowd openly carrying an AK-47. In video footage, he appears to be intimidating and threatening counter-protestors.

Perry drove his vehicle into an area populated with demonstrators. Foster allegedly pointed his loaded firearm at Perry, who pulled his own gun and fired three times, killing Foster.

During the trial, the question of whether or not Foster had pointed his rifle at Perry came into question. With numerous cameras catching the incident, it surprised some that this evidence wasn’t readily available.

However, the lead detective on the case, David Fugitt, filed an affidavit claiming that more than 100 pages of exculpatory evidence had been removed by the case’s District Attorney (DA), Jose P. Garza.

“I firmly believe the District Attorney’s Office, acting under the authority of Jose P. Garza, tampered with me as a witness,” the affidavit read.

Fugitt’s affidavit alleged that inconsistent witness statements given to police by the Foster family and attorneys were withheld, as well as video of the incident itself.

Fugitt further states that on more than one occasion, he had been directed by the Travis County Attorney’s Office to remove exculpatory information he had intended to present to the grand jury during his testimony.

“At that point, I specifically asked if there would be ‘ramifications’ if I did not do so. I was told by Assistant District Attorney Guillermo Gonzalez that he would ask the elected District Attorney, Jose Garza, what would happen if I refused to agree to the limitations I was being ordered to comply with. I was later sent an email simply reaffirming the exculpatory subjects that I was forbidden from mentioning during my testimony,” the affidavit reads.

“Of my original 158-slide PowerPoint presentation, the presentation was reduced to 56 slides with almost all of the exculpatory evidence ordered removed. I felt like I did not have any other options but to comply with their orders.”

Fugitt continues, “I firmly believe the District Attorney’s Office, acting under the authority of Jose P. Garza, tampered with e as a witness.” Detective Fugitt explains that witness tampering is normally subtle, but that was not what happened in the case against Daniel Perry. “In this case, there were foreseeable consequences if I did not comply and tailor my grand jury presentation as directed ad failure to do so would adversely affect my working relationship with the District Attorney’s Office for the foreseeable future.”

It has come to light that this is not the first time DA Garza has asked that evidence in a case be withheld or deleted.

DA Jose Garza

In 2021, Assistant District Attorney Ariane Flores resigned via Brady Notice submitted in Travis County. Named after Brady v. Maryland, the Brady rule requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory information that the government is in possession of to the defense.

According to Save Austin Now, Flores claimed in the Brady Notice that DA Garza’s office frequently asked her to “delete emails and work product notes on this case between myself and Victim Witness Counselor.” The case in question involved child sexual abuse.

Flores further stated within the claim that after withstanding pressure from Garza’s First Assistant Trudy Strassburger to destroy evidence, she was met with what she considered to be a “credible threat,” and one that she felt left her no choice other than to resign.

Garza’s reputation for protecting violent criminals, while going after law enforcement has also drawn criticism. The Austin Police Association, made up of close to 2,000 law enforcement officers, criticized Garza’s approach to prosecuting offenders.

In a separate case last fall, a drunk driver killed his female passenger after crashing at high speed. He received 10 days in jail thanks to Garza.

After the 10-day verdict was read, the Austin Police Association tweeted, “Another example of Travis County prosecutors going easy on violent criminals. Victims lives are marginalized. Where is the justice for the families & loved ones of the victim?”

The scrutiny on DA Garza does not stop there. After the news of Sgt. Perry’s guilty verdict, information about Garza’s funding surfaced.

According to campaign finance records obtained by Fox News, ”George Soros contributed $652,000 to the Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC in the months leading up to the 2020 Travis County DA election. That same PAC spent almost $1 million on digital and mail advertisements to help Garza’s campaign.”

Jose Garza was elected as the Travis County District Attorney in January 2021, despite having no previous experience as a prosecutor. Garza ran on the platform of “reimagine justice,” which included the idea of not withholding information from those who are prosecuted.

The accused should know what the evidence is (discovery) before having to make critical decisions, and the law agrees. Unlike the current policy of waiting until certain types of cases have been indicted before disclosing discovery, my office will adopt an open file discovery policy that will apply after arrest allowing people accused of crimes to make fully-informed decisions every step of the way.”

In a more recent case, Garza cut a deal with an Austin CapMetro bus driver who killed a bicyclist while high on prescription drugs. The deal was for zero jail time. Instead, driver Mindi Stafford received a deferred adjudication of seven years, (probation) along with community service.

In light of all of this, Texas Governor Greg Abbot released a statement saying he would be working to pardon Sgt. Perry.

“Unlike the President or some other states, the Texas Constitution limits the Governor’s pardon authority to only act on a recommendation by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Texas law DOES allow the Governor to request the Board of Pardons and Paroles to determine if a person should be granted a pardon. I have made that request and instructed the Board to expedite its review. I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk. Additionally, I have already prioritized reining in rogue District Attorneys, and the Texas Legislature is working on laws to achieve that goal,” he tweeted.

The judge presiding over Perry’s case, Judge Clifford Brown, told reporters that Perry’s sentencing hearing could begin as early as next Tuesday. The date would be confirmed with attorneys for both sides on Monday, April 10th, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Perry is facing five years to life.

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Haley Kennington

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