Judge Boyd’s court recused from three felony cases, amid fallout from YouTube stream

Defense attorneys have complained that YouTube commenters make disparaging comments about them and their clients

Judge Stephanie Boyd (left) listens during a plea hearing for defendant Wilberth Villamil July 6. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – An administrative judge this month granted recusals in three felony cases being heard by 187th District Court Judge Stephanie Boyd, following complaints about her decision to stream courtroom proceedings on her YouTube page.

The recusals granted by visiting Judge Sid Harle will move future proceedings in an injury to a child causing serious bodily injury case and two indecency with a child cases out of Judge Boyd’s courtroom, records obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

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The recusals come amid continued fallout from Judge Boyd allowing viewers of her courtroom YouTube page to comment in real-time, while proceedings are taking place.

Defense attorneys have complained to KSAT, and in at least one formal complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, that Judge Boyd enabling commenters has subjected them and their clients to be targeted with abusive and disparaging remarks from people watching online.

“This case is horrible.”

A complaint against Judge Boyd filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct earlier this year describes a July 6 hearing for a sexual assault defendant.

Defendant Wilberth Villamil, who was scheduled to plead no contest in front of Judge Boyd to a single count of aggravated sexual assault of a child in exchange for 15 years in prison, instead saw his case delayed and then transferred to a different court.

“Is there a reason I should accept this agreement? Why am I accepting this agreement?” Judge Boyd asked as Villamil stood before her on July 6.

Commenters on the stream, which had been watched more than 8,500 times as of Thursday, described the defendant as “sick,” wrote other insults about him and wrote that he deserved longer than 15 years in prison as the plea hearing took place.

“This case is horrible,” said Judge Boyd, as she weighed whether to accept the plea agreement.

The prosecutor assigned to the case said the deal was offered because the family of the victim wanted closure and not to retraumatize the victim.

Judge Boyd, after hearing Villamil describe the sexual assault, said the court would be willing to accept a plea deal of 20 years, not 15.

Villamil’s attorney then said it would not be appropriate to discuss a complete reworking of the plea deal in such a rushed manner and the case was subsequently reset.

The case was then transferred to 227th District Court on Aug. 4. Villamil pleaded no contest on Aug. 24 and was sentenced to the original 15 years in prison prosecutors had offered, court records show.

The formal complaint against Judge Boyd states that she violated several canons of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct with her statements made during the livestream.

The commission has not indicated if and when it plans to rule on the merits of the complaint.

Judge Boyd told KSAT via email this week that we had contacted her about a matter under seal.

“While my goal is always to have a courtroom which is transparent, I cannot nor should anyone else comment on matters filed under seal,” wrote Judge Boyd.

Judge Boyd’s courtroom YouTube page had more than 14,600 subscribers as of Thursday.

KSAT has shared the video portion of the court’s livestream on its digital platforms but that feed does not include comments.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.