‘She is incompetent, dishonest and vindictive’: Arrested deputy constable says of boss

Felony perjury charge against Leonicio Moreno dismissed day after his arrest

SAN ANTONIO – A Bexar County Precinct 2 deputy constable charged this week with felony aggravated perjury says his arrest is the latest in a long line of civil rights violations against citizens committed by his boss, Constable Michelle Barrientes-Vela.

Deputy Leonicio Moreno released a written statement Friday morning, claiming that his arrest "confirmed the worst fears a community can have about an elected official."

Moreno, who filed in January to run against Barrientes-Vela in the 2020 election, was arrested on Tuesday after a judge signed a warrant for aggravated perjury - falsification of a government document.

The warrant stated that Moreno earlier this year filed two false complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which hindered the agency's ability to carry out law enforcement duties.

Moreno's statement, released via email, states:

As you know, on April 30, 2019, I was arrested for aggravated perjury at the direction of Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes-Vela. As pointed out by the Bexar County District Attorney, Constable Vela used her position of authority to have me arrested for acts which are not even criminal. Constable Vela violated my rights under the Constitution. Unfortunately for the citizens of Bexar County, my arrest was just another in a long line of incidents in which the Constable has violated citizens' rights and acted in a manner that is reprehensible. My arrest was nothing more than a political stunt designed to discredit me as a candidate for the office of Bexar County Constable for Precinct 2. Constable Vela demonstrated time and again that she cannot be trusted to hold the office to which she was elected. She confirmed the worst fears a community can have about an elected official. She is incompetent, dishonest and vindictive. She has no qualms with abusing her authority and position for personal gain. I will continue to fight the corruption in Precinct 2 and I will pursue legal remedies for Constable Vela's illegal actions. Thank you.

District clerk records show the felony charge against Moreno was dismissed Wednesday, a day after his arrest.

Christian Henricksen, the chief of litigation for the District Attorney's Office, said that, based on the information in the warrant, prosecutors did not feel comfortable moving forward. He said prosecutors will consider any additional evidence or information brought forward to substantiate the charges, but that the office rejected the case as it stands.

Records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show that Barrientes-Vela was served late last month with a notice requiring her to preserve evidence related to possible violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of two of her deputies: Moreno and Christopher De La Cerda.

The letter, called a spoliation notice, requires Barrientes-Vela to preserve leave documents, video and audio recordings as well as copies of Precinct 2 procedures related to requiring employees to be on leave while filing paperwork to run for political office.

Days after the letter was delivered, a captain with Precinct 2 submitted warrant paperwork for Moreno's arrest.

Barrientes-Vela did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Moreno's arrest and the subsequent dismissal of charges is the latest chapter in the tumultuous relationship between Barrientes-Vela and the former member of her administration.

In June 2018, the Defenders reported that Moreno and De La Cerda were fired after a state investigation revealed they falsified their own training records and those of other members of the agency.

Both deputies later won back their jobs after the county's Civil Service Commission voted to overturn their terminations.

Moreno is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Barrientes-Vela that accuses her of retaliating against him after he refused her advances while the two were in a hot tub in Galveston in July 2017.

Moreno claims Barrientes-Vela tried to touch and caress him and also referred to him as her husband while on the county work trip, according to the suit.

The lawsuit remains pending.

Last month, the Defenders reported that a 19-year-old San Antonio woman involved in a car crash had her blood drawn without Precinct 2 officials first obtaining a search warrant.

The woman, identified as Madison Huizar, was also nearly subjected to a cavity search, according to records from the Leon Valley Police Department, which also responded to the Feb. 13 crash.

Huizar has not been criminally charged in connection to the crash.

Law enforcement sources across multiple agencies have told the Defenders that Barrientes-Vela should be investigated by federal authorities for color of law abuses.

According to the United States Department of Justice, it is a crime for person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

Records show that, on April 4, Leon Valley police handed over documents and pictures to the FBI related to the warrantless blood draw.

An FBI spokeswoman on Thursday said via email that she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation related to Barrientes-Vela.

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.