SAN ANTONIO – Former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela will first go to trial on an aggravated perjury charge after a state district judge this week granted a motion to sever the offenses against her.
The motion, granted by Judge Ron Rangel, will also apply to Barrientes Vela’s co-defendant, former Precinct 2 Capt. Marc D. Garcia.
Barrientes Vela, who was removed from office in October 2019 after triggering the state’s resign-to-run law, was indicted on abuse of office and perjury allegations alongside Garcia in January 2020 following a nine-month investigation by the Texas Rangers and FBI.
The resign-to-run law stipulates that elected officials who announce plans to run for another office with more than 13 months left in their current term forfeit their seat.
Barrientes Vela, who filed a lawsuit to block her removal only to have it tossed out by a judge, stayed in the race for Bexar County sheriff but later finished third in the March 2020 Democratic primary.
Barrientes Vela faces one felony count of aggravated perjury, two felony counts of tampering with evidence and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression, related to her nearly three-year tenure as constable.
Garcia, a Precinct 2 deputy constable since 2010 who rose to the rank of captain while Barrientes Vela was in office, faces one felony count of aggravated perjury and three counts of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
Garcia was fired by Precinct 2 last February for conduct unbecoming an officer and violations of the law, according to his termination paperwork.
The pair are tentatively scheduled to go to trial on April 7, but that date will likely be postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The granting of the motion means that each charge against them must be tried one after another instead of a consolidated indictment.
Barrientes Vela’s attorney, former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood, described the ruling as a win on Friday and said it gives the former constable’s legal team clarity on what evidence they will need to be prepared to have.
A spokeswoman for Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales declined to comment.