DA rejects perjury charges against Pct. 2 deputy constable

'There is not sufficient evidence to proceed,' DA's chief of litigation says

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Adrian Garcia - Digital Journalist, Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The Bexar County District Attorney's office on Wednesday announced it will not prosecute the aggravated perjury case against a Bexar County Precinct 2 deputy constable.

Leonecio Moreno, who is running to unseat current Constable Michelle Barrientes-Vela, was taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon by his fellow deputies on suspicion of aggravated perjury - falsification of a government document. A warrant for Moreno's arrest obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders on Tuesday night states Moreno filed two false EEOC complaints earlier this year that have hindered the agency's law enforcement duties.

Online court records show that Moreno was released from jail and that the District Attorney's Office rejected the charge.

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.

"Based on the information available to the District Attorney's Office at this time, there is not sufficient evidence to proceed on an aggravated perjury case against Deputy Moreno," Henricksen said. "The District Attorney’s Office will reconsider prosecution if sufficient evidence is presented at a later date."

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales added that "rejecting a case for further investigation is not a comment on the merits of the allegations, only that the evidence at this date is insufficient to present to a grand jury." He said that the case may be refiled "when supporting evidence is more fully developed.”

In handcuffs and being escorted by deputies, Moreno said Tuesday that his arrest was fueled by retaliation from Barrientes-Vela.

On Jan. 9, Moreno filed to run against Barrientes-Vela in the 2020 election, according to online records.

"I believe Michelle (Barrientes-Vela) thinks she's above the law. Just look what she's doing," Moreno said.

Barrientes-Vela called a news conference Wednesday morning when she said Moreno's arrest wasn't in retaliation for his bid to unseat her. She said that his arrest came after a magistrate judge signed off on the charging document. 

While a Central Magistrate employee told KSAT on Wednesday afternoon that Judge Lori Crockett had signed off on the arrest warrant, the district clerk's government relations advisor Elva Abundis-Esparza said Wednesday night that it was actually Judge Michael Ugarte who signed off on the warrant.

According to KSAT records, Moreno and Barrientes-Vela have been involved in a series of tumultuous events within the past two years.

The Defenders previously reported that Moreno had filed a lawsuit against Barrientes-Vela, which accused her of retaliating against him after he refused her advances while in a hot tub in Galveston in July 2017.

Moreno claimed 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 obtained by the Defenders.

The lawsuit is still pending.

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

Moreno, an 18-year veteran of Precinct 2, logged 22 training hours during a single day last October, state records revealed.

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

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