43ºF

Constable pushes back on investigation into delayed booking of deputy, refuses to hand over 'proof'

Constable concerned she will be criminally charged by district attorney

During a disjointed news conference near the Bexar County Courthouse on Tuesday, Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela pushed back against a recent KSAT 12 Defenders investigation that showed her deputies delayed booking a fellow deputy earlier this year.

Barrientes Vela, a first-term constable representing the northwest section of the county, claimed to have Automatic Vehicle Locator records showing the delay was much shorter than synced up jail surveillance showed, but repeatedly refused to hand over her "proof."

WATCH: Precinct 2 deputies delayed booking of constable's political opponent

The nearly hourlong news conference bounced between criticizing KSAT's coverage of her tumultuous tenure, allegations from her that Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales is working to indict her on criminal charges and claims that the Bexar County Sheriff's Office was untruthful while investigating whether or not she squeezed money from someone at Rodriguez Park in exchange for providing security Easter Sunday.

Precinct 2 Capt. Marc Garcia spent the early portion of the news conference reading from purported Automatic Vehicle Logs, or AVLs, which he claims shows the delay in booking Deputy Constable Leonicio Moreno on April 30 was less than 10 minutes in length, as opposed to the nearly 30-minute delay revealed by cameras on both sides of the jail and inside its secure booking area.

Garcia also said that Moreno was moved out of the secure area and into the neighborhood west of the jail, at the direction of Bexar County Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Johnny Garcia.

"We complied with (BCSO's) direction and guidance during the arrest, transport and booking of this individual," Marc Garcia said.

Reached for comment, Johnny Garcia released the following statement disputing Marc Garcia's claims:

As to not disrupt BCSO operations, Precinct 2 Deputy Constables were instructed to relocate their planned media activities from the Justice Intake Center Sally Port, to the front of the Justice Intake Center located on Comal. No guidance was asked or given to them on how to conduct their operation.

At issue is why deputies decided to drive Moreno into the neighborhood, stopping along Richter Street and then parking for more than 10 minutes on Salado Street, instead of pulling directly under a bridge on Commerce Street after pulling out of the Sally port.

WATCH ENTIRE NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW:

Synced up video showed deputy constables parked along Salado Street, as media slowly arrived on the opposite side of the jail, and then drive and park under the bridge after media members were in place.

Garcia and Barrientes Vela ignored more than 20 follow-up questions from the Defenders about these delays before Barrientes Vela finally said that she would not engage with the reporter.

Asked after the news conference why he would not hand over the AVL records, Marc Garcia said the Defenders would have to file an open records request.

The Defenders have filed the request, but so far have not received the purported records.

The felony perjury charge against arrested Moreno was dismissed hours after he was walked in front of television cameras.

He filed earlier this year to run for Precinct 2 constable in 2020.

Barrientes Vela rejected the notion that Moreno is her political opponent, saying Tuesday that she is not sure if she plans to seek reelection in 2020.

DA building case against constable?

Despite repeatedly calling one of the deputies who arrested Moreno by the wrong name, Barrientes Vela on Tuesday defended their actions April 30.

She said she was dismayed to learn that one of them, Deputy Steven Barloco, has been placed on the Brady List, a list of law enforcement officers previously found to be untrustworthy that must be disclosed to defense attorneys if that officer is scheduled to testify during a court proceeding.

Law enforcement officials, by law, are not required to discuss publicly who or who may not be on the list.

It remains unclear why Barrientes Vela chose to bring up the topic in front of the media.

She then segued into criticizing Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who she claims refuses to answer her phone calls or to address her concerns.

Gonzales declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on the news conference remarks.

Barrientes Vela conceded during her remarks that she is concerned Gonzales' office may criminally charge her.

She said investigators from the DA's office have yet to question her or personnel from her agency, but that she heard rumors that evidence against her could be presented to a grand jury as early as Wednesday.

Asked specifically about the Rodriguez Park incident earlier this month, Gonzales said via email:

We cannot confirm or deny investigations that may be undertaken by the District Attorney's Office.

Barrientes Vela's actions at Rodriguez Park and her deputies' handling of Moreno's arrest are the latest civil rights concerns surrounding her agency this year.

In April, a Defenders investigation revealed that a car crash victim had her blood drawn without a warrant and was nearly subjected to a cavity search after Precinct 2 personnel believed she was under the influence of marijuana.

Court records show the woman was never criminally charged.


About the Authors:

Dillon Collier

Dillon is a Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year. His relentless work includes uncovering the misuse of funds within a local housing authority and prompting a congressional inquiry at Fort Sam Houston.