WATCH: Precinct 2 deputies delayed booking of constable's political opponent
Footage shows apparent violation of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure
SAN ANTONIO – Surveillance video obtained by the KSAT Defenders shows deputy constables from Bexar County Precinct 2 delayed booking a fellow deputy earlier this year until media arrived at the jail.
The footage, provided by the Bexar County Sheriff's Office following an open records request, shows four angles from synchronized cameras of Pct. 2 Deputy Leonicio Moreno being booked into jail April 30 on a felony charge of aggravated perjury.
The full video below shows deputy constables on April 30 delaying the booking process of one of their own. The video has been edited to remove segments in which the vehicle is not captured by jail cameras.
The footage shows a Precinct 2 vehicle arrive at the east side of the county's Justice Intake and Assessment Annex and enter the facility through its Sally port.
Once inside the secure area, the video shows two deputies remove and secure gear from their weapons belts in the back of the vehicle and prepare to take Moreno inside the jail.
One of the deputies then gets a phone call, Moreno is put back in the vehicle and the deputies back out and leave the secure area, turning west on Commerce Avenue, the footage shows.
Sources familiar with Moreno's arrest said the deputies then turned right on Richter Street and pulled over, waiting in the neighborhood west of the jail for several more minutes.
The vehicle then continued to travel north, turned right on Martin Street headed east and then turned right on Frio Street heading south, before turning right on Commerce Street and approached the jail from the east, sources said.
A camera on the east side of the jail then captured footage of the vehicle turning onto Salado Street and parking for more than 10 minutes.
The vehicle then turned onto Commerce Street and parked under a bridge.
Moreno was then walked in front of television cameras, nearly a half-hour after he had first arrived at the facility to be booked.
Asked for comment about the handling of his arrest, Moreno, who has filed to run against Barrientes Vela in the 2020 election, sent the Defenders the following statement:
The delay in my booking that day was one more example of how Constable Vela has misused her power and authority in an attempt to humiliate me and intimidate me into not running against her. My attorney has brought this issue to the attention of both the District Attorney and the Texas Rangers and it's my hope that they will take appropriate action against Constable Vela for her misconduct.
Sources have identified the deputy constables who arrested, transported and booked Moreno as Jason Castanon and Steven Barloco.
Barrientes Vela, a first-term constable who has routinely claimed that her agency is open and transparent, shut down our requests to interview her for this story.
However, she did not dispute the allegation that her deputies circled the neighborhood surrounding the jail in order to allow the media to assemble for a perp walk of Moreno.
Barrientes Vela released the following statement via email:
I do not know what you are speaking of when (sic) address THE ROUTE, as a motor vehicle has public access on highways or streets ect (sic). We do not have a policy on what roads a patrol unit may or may not on (sic) operate on due to the natural (sic) of our field, or how many turns a patrol unit may or may not take. I find this question to be odd but this is expected from you.
The handling of Moreno while in custody appears to be a violation of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Article 15.17 (page 175 at this link), which pertains to the duties of an arresting officer, requires an arrested person be taken before a county magistrate without unnecessary delay.
Moreno is the latest suspect to endure questionable treatment while in the custody of Precinct 2 deputies.
Emergency medical service records and a sworn affidavit obtained by the Defenders earlier this year showed a woman involved in a car crash had her blood drawn without a warrant and was nearly subjected to a cavity search after Pct. 2 personnel believed she was under the influence of marijuana.
Court records show the woman was never criminally charged.
Moreno's felony charge, aggravated perjury - falsification of a government document, was dismissed by prosecutors hours after he was taken into custody.
The warrant for Moreno's arrest stated that he filed two false Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints earlier this year that hindered Precinct 2's ability to carry out law enforcement duties.
The chief of litigation for the Bexar County District Attorney's Office released a statement following the dismissal that said prosecutors did not feel comfortable moving forward with the case against Moreno.
"We have determined that they don't rise to the level of committing a crime," said District Attorney Joe Gonzales, when asked by the Defenders last month about several criminal complaints filed by Barrientes Vela's office against Moreno, who late last year filed a lawsuit against the constable accusing her of retaliating against him after he refused her advances while in a hot tub in Galveston in July 2017.
"I think the timing is bad in the sense that one of those individuals, or the individual, was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against her," Gonzales said.
The lawsuit remains pending, according to district clerk records.
In an unrelated civil filing, Barrientes Vela and one of her deputy constables have been accused of violating Moreno's rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by publicly accusing him of committing perjury, in connection to his April arrest.
The notice, sent June 3, said Barrientes Vela and the deputy constable could be required to pay damages if they fail to retract their public statements about Moreno.
Court records show a lawsuit has yet to be filed in the case.
The Texas Public Information Act, and how it works
On May 2, the Defenders requested through the Bexar County records portal the dash camera video from the Pct. 2 vehicle used to transport Moreno to jail.
Weeks later, after the deadline to respond to the request had passed, an assistant district attorney said via email that Barrientes Vela had implemented a new policy requiring citizens to request records in person at her office or by emailing her directly.
The assistant district attorney pointed out that the DA's office was not involved in generating the policy.
The policy violates the Texas Public Information Act, which requires only that a request be put in writing.
The Defenders also requested the dash camera video in a May 2 email to Barrientes Vela, one of the accepted ways to submit a request, according to her "policy."
On May 20, after the deadline to acknowledge the request passed, Barrientes Vela responded to the original email chain for the request claiming she never received the request.
In early June, after the Defenders informed her that KSAT 12 was moving forward with a story about Moreno's arrest for broadcast, Barrientes Vela admitted there was no vehicle footage of Moreno's arrest because, she said, the patrol unit's recording system has not been operating.
The Defenders have since filed a formal complaint with the Texas Attorney General's Office.
Hours before the story was scheduled to air, during county business hours, Barrientes Vela repeatedly commented on a Facebook post from Dillon Collier about the story, despite repeatedly denying requests to be interviewed for the same story over the past several weeks.
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