SAN ANTONIO – Former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela on Wednesday morning made her first court appearance since her arrest last month on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges.
Surrounded by family members and a group of supporters, Barrientes Vela was in and out of court in under an hour.
Supporters at one point yelled “Collier coward,”and tried to block a KSAT 12 photographer from recording footage of Barrientes Vela outside court.
To date, the Defenders have done more than 50 stories on the constable turned candidate for sheriff turned accused felon.
“At this time she maintains her innocence and we stand with her,” said former Bexar County district attorney Nico LaHood, whose law firm was retained by Barrientes Vela shortly after her indictment last month. “We’re not afraid of a fight and so she deserves good, honest representation and she has a good team working for her, so God willing, the right result will come from this.”
LaHood was one of four attorneys representing Barrientes Vela to appear in 379th District Court Wednesday.
Barrientes Vela and her former captain, Marc Garcia, both responded as present during the morning docket call but left without having to stand in front of Judge Ron Rangel.
Barrientes Vela and Garcia were indicted Jan. 23, following a nine-month investigation by the Texas Rangers and FBI.
Barrientes Vela faces one felony count of aggravated perjury, two felony counts of tampering with evidence and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression.
Garcia faces one felony count of aggravated perjury and three counts of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
He was fired by Precinct 2 on Feb. 12 for conduct unbecoming an officer and violations of the law, according to his termination paperwork.
Barrientes Vela, who was removed from office in October after triggering the state’s resign-to-run law, remains a candidate for Bexar County Sheriff.
Her court appearance came as early voting continues across the county ahead of next Tuesday’s primary election.
A search warrant from a raid last September of Barrientes Vela’s Northwest Side offices states that she and three members of her administration withheld records from a subpoena, fabricated charging documents and forced a clerk to shred records related to payments for security at a public park. Authorities seized and inventoried more than 70 items during the raid, the warrant shows.
LaHood conceded Wednesday that there is a lot of evidence in the case.
The indictment centers around a handful of incidents that resulted in six criminal charges.
Prosecutors accuse Barrientes Vela of lying in her sworn statements about Deputy Leonicio Moreno, who had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against her. Moreno also was planning on running against Barrientes Vela for the constable seat.
Barrientes Vela had Moreno arrested on suspicion of aggravated perjury last April, according to her indictment, but the charges were quickly rejected by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
Moreno’s arrest and her alleged treatment of the deputy over a few years were cited in the indictment for Barrientes Vela’s aggravated perjury charge and two of her official oppression charges.
The third official oppression charge stems from Barrientes Vela’s alleged treatment of Christopher De La Cerda, a former deputy who accused the constable of “creating a work environment that was intimidating” and “hostile.”
Prosecutors have accused Garcia of making up false statements while under oath in order to get a warrant to arrest Moreno.
The pair is scheduled to make their next court appearances in about 60 days.