Judge recuses himself from criminal trials of Barrientes Vela, former captain

Judge Ron Rangel said he wanted to guard against even an appearance of a conflict

379th District Court Judge Ron Rangel. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County District Court Judge Ron Rangel has recused himself from the upcoming felony perjury trials of former Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and her one-time captain, Marc D. Garcia, the KSAT 12 Defenders confirmed Wednesday.

Rangel, in a text message sent Wednesday morning, said he wanted “to guard against even an appearance of conflict” after Barrientes Vela previously posted a picture on Facebook of her and the judge at a human trafficking conference.

The 2018 town hall took place while Barrientes Vela was scheduled to be at a taxpayer-funded law enforcement training trip in Corpus Christi.

Rangel added via text that there is no conflict, but that he wanted “to ensure the public confidence in any result.”

Court records show both criminal cases have been transferred to 226th District Court Judge Velia Meza.

WATCH: ‘Downfall:’ The story of ex-Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, a KSAT 12 Defenders special

Attorneys for Michelle Barrientes Vela and Marc D. Garcia said they plan an aggressive defense at trial. (KSAT)

Barrientes Vela and Garcia are tentatively scheduled to go to trial May 3, but that date could be postponed as the county continues its methodical return to in-person court proceedings following a lengthy shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recusal comes less than two weeks after a Defenders one-hour special took an up close look at Barrientes Vela’s tumultuous tenure as constable, her eventual removal from office in late 2019 and her January 2020 indictment on six criminal counts related to possible abuse of office.

Barrientes Vela faces charges of aggravated perjury, tampering with evidence and official oppression.

Defense attorney Nico LaHood, who is representing Barrientes Vela, said he that he looks forward to trying the case in front of Meza.

“We can not comment on Judge Rangel’s self recusal because we are unaware of the reason,” LaHood told KSAT 12 News. “What we can say is Judge Meza is a smart and fair judge and we look forward to trying the case in her court.”

Garcia’s criminal defense attorney, Mark Anthony Sanchez, declined to comment Wednesday on the recusal.

In February, Rangel granted a motion to sever the offenses against Barrientes Vela and Garcia, meaning the duo will be first tried on the most serious offense against each of them — aggravated perjury — instead of all the charges at once.

Garcia, a Precinct 2 deputy constable since 2010 who rose to the rank of captain while Barrientes Vela was in office, faces one count of aggravated perjury and three counts of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.