SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s Note: Court is recessed for the day and will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 24.
Former Bexar County Precinct 2 Capt. Marc D. Garcia was ordered to appear before Judge Velia Meza when the sentencing hearing of his former boss, Michelle Barrientes Vela, resumes at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
Meza indicated in court late Wednesday that she will ultimately determine whether Garcia will be permitted to testify.
Garcia was supposed to testify Wednesday against his former boss but those plans were halted Wednesday after conflict of interest concerns surfaced.
Garcia’s attorney, Mark Anthony Sanchez, represented both Garcia and Barrientes Vela in multiple civil claims filed against the former Precinct 2 leaders by other members of the agency.
Defense attorney Jason Goss argued that Garcia being allowed to testify would be a violation of Barrientes Vela’s constitutional rights, since Sanchez may have given him information Sanchez learned while representing Barrientes Vela in the civil cases.
Prosecutors said Garcia plans to testify solely off of what he witnessed while working under the then-constable.
The county settled the various lawsuits for $467,000, nearly half of which went to Deputy Leonicio Moreno.
Meza had revealed just before court adjourned for lunch Wednesday that Garcia would likely need to find a new attorney and could even potentially be disqualified from testifying. Prosecutors informed the court of their intention to file a motion to have his attorney withdrawn after the hearing resumed Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday’s testimony focused on the chaotic manner in which Barrientes Vela ran her agency from the time she took office in January 2017 to her stepping down in October 2019.
Steve Moninger, an attorney for the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified about state laws pertaining to off-duty deputies working security.
Prosecutors have previously accused Barrientes Vela of violating the state’s Private Security Act related to her scheduling of deputies at Rodriguez Park and other events, including a church festival.
Defense attorney Jason Goss denied that Barrientes Vela violated the Private Security Act, comparing her security set-up to the house not taking a cut after a game of poker is played.
Renee Garza, court manager for Bexar County Precinct 2, made a revelation on the witness stand that had not been previously known publicly.
Garza testified that defendants with warrants out of Precinct 2 were being forced by deputies to pay money before making appearances in the justice of the peace court, a clear violation of court procedures. She testified that fines and fees in many of the 93 cases identified later had to be waived.
Precinct 2 Judge Roberto Vazquez, who shared a Northwest Side county building with Barrientes Vela, said he was forced to go to the then-district attorney in 2017 in order to get Barrientes Vela to stop the practice.
“They are directed to arrest that individual and bring them before myself or the local magistrate,” Vazquez testified.
Vazquez engaged in a combative back-and-forth with Goss, at one point telling the attorney how to properly object in court, before Meza told them to move on.
Vazquez repeatedly issued biting criticism of Barrientes Vela, recalling one meeting in which he sought to discuss with her the code of criminal procedure. Vazquez testified that during the meeting Barrientes Vela pushed a copy of the statutes away and let him know, “that she knew the code of criminal procedure better than any lawyer or judge, so I didn’t have to worry about it.”
Vazquez testified about a separate incident in which Barrientes Vela, unhappy with how 2018 budget sessions had played out, had the metal detector removed from the entrance to the Precinct 2 building, leaving it without security for 24-36 hours. Vazquez pointed out that the metal detector did not even belong to the constable’s office and was actually owned by the court.
On cross-examination, Goss said that Vazquez’s dislike of Barrientes Vela had caused him to act unprofessionally.
Current Pct. 2 Constable Leticia Vazquez, who took over for Barrientes Vela in October 2019, testified Wednesday afternoon that she inherited a mess.
The agency’s credit cards were frozen. Shelves of envelopes were found that needed to be mailed out but had not because the agency’s stamp machine was inoperable due to an outstanding balance.
Pct. 2′s property room was also in “disarray,” Constable Vazquez testified.
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.
Barrientes Vela still faces three counts of official oppression related to her treatment of Moreno and a second Precinct 2 Deputy Christopher De la Cerda.
Prosecutors have indicated that they will dismiss those charges at the conclusion of her sentencing hearing for felony tampering.
Like Moreno, De La Cerda was given a six-figure settlement from the county last year.
Garcia was scheduled to go to trial for felony perjury in late November, and like Barrientes Vela, also faces multiple counts of official oppression.
The prosecution’s move to withdraw its criminal case against Garcia in exchange for his testimony likely indicates that the state is pushing for Barrientes Vela to serve jail time.
Barrientes Vela faces between two years probation and 10 years in prison.
She has asked to be sentenced by Meza.