SAN ANTONIO – The sentencing of convicted felon Michelle Barrientes Vela was paused again Thursday as her attorneys and prosecutors were granted time to finalize arguments over whether a key witness will be allowed to testify against her.
Marc D. Garcia, who served as a captain under the former Precinct 2 constable, reached an agreement with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office late Tuesday night to serve as a witness against Barrientes Vela.
In exchange for his testimony, Garcia’s four criminal charges: aggravated perjury and three counts of official oppression, would be tossed out, sources familiar with the agreement have told KSAT Investigates.
But an attempt to call Garcia to the stand this week was halted on Wednesday after attorneys for Barrientes Vela raised concerns about a conflict of interest.
Garcia’s attorney, Mark Anthony Sanchez, represented both Garcia and Barrientes Vela in multiple civil claims filed against the former Pct. 2 leaders by other members of the agency.
Sanchez withdrew from the case and Garcia showed up to court Thursday with a new attorney, Alex Scharff.
“I was in federal court, came and called me and said, ‘we’ve got Mr. Garcia coming here and you need to be here.’ And I said, ‘OK,’” Scharff told KSAT as he left court Thursday afternoon.
Garcia’s perjury trial was scheduled to begin in late November. A status hearing has been instead been scheduled for Dec. 1, giving Scharff two months to get familiar with the complex public corruption case.
Jason Goss, Barrientes Vela’s attorney, said allowing Garcia to take the stand violates his client’s due process and constitutional rights.
“We don’t know what Mr. Garcia is going to testify to. We can’t ever say that that information didn’t come from Michelle to her attorney and the attorney-client privilege,” Goss said. “The problem is a lot of times in these things, if it’s tainted just a little bit, just a drop of blood in the water taints everything.”
Prosecutors have indicated that Garcia’s potential testimony would be narrow in scope and pertain to what he witnesses first hand, instead of what he has learned since he and Barrientes Vela were indicted in January 2020.
Judge Velia Meza plans to hear arguments from both sides about the issue when Barrientes Vela’s sentencing resumes Oct. 24.
Barrientes Vela’s nearly two-week long trial concluded last month with a jury convicting her of altering security payment logs for Rodriguez Park and knowingly turning over false records to law enforcement after receiving grand jury subpoenas in the summer of 2019.
The former constable still faces three counts of official oppression, which prosecutors have attempted to “prove up” last month and this month using testimony from around 20 witnesses.
Prosecutors have indicated that they will dismiss those charges at the conclusion of her sentencing hearing for felony tampering.
Barrientes Vela faces between two years probation and 10 years in prison.
She has asked to be sentenced by Judge Meza.