Judge in Barrientes Vela sentencing weighing whether to allow testimony of ex-captain

Prosecution scheduled to wrap up case Tuesday; defense will present case in early January

Marc D. Garcia (center) in court earlier this month. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – The start and stop sentencing of convicted ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela resumes Tuesday with a key hearing that will take place without courtroom spectators or cameras present.

Judge Velia Meza, in an order issued late last week, will hear the testimony of Marc D. Garcia in camera, meaning only the judge, and members of the prosecution and defense will be allowed inside.

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Garcia, who served as captain under Barrientes Vela during part of her tumultuous 33-month tenure and was later indicted alongside her, reached an agreement with prosecutors this month to testify against his former boss.

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.

A status hearing in Garcia’s criminal case has been tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1.

Judge Meza’s Oct. 20 order states that Garcia can be questioned by the defense and prosecution and that she will then determine whether to allow him to testify in open court later Tuesday.

The order also outlines the remaining schedule for the sentencing of Barrientes Vela, who was convicted Sept. 1 on two felony counts of tampering with records.

The prosecution must conclude its case by Tuesday, according to the order.

Barrientes Vela’s defense has been granted a continuance and will now present witnesses on her behalf the first week of January.

Barrientes Vela faces between two years probation and 10 years in prison.

She has asked to be sentenced by Judge Meza.

Barrientes Vela’s defense attorneys this month raised conflict of interest concerns, after learning that Garcia was scheduled to testify against their client, since both Barrientes Vela and Garcia were represented by the same attorney at one point.

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 had continued to serve as Garcia’s criminal defense attorney as well.

Sanchez withdrew from the criminal case and Garcia showed up to court earlier this month with a new attorney, Alex Scharff.

Attorneys for Barrientes Vela still argue that allowing Garcia to testify would violate their client’s due process and constitutional rights, since he may be privy to information about the case told to Sanchez under attorney-client privilege.

Prosecutors have argued the potential conflict of interest and any breach of confidential or private information would lie with Sanchez, not Garcia.

About the Authors

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.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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