DALLAS – The lead up to the felony trial of Michelle Barrientes Vela took a bizarre turn Friday after she was accused of accosting a Texas House of Representatives candidate and a prominent community advocate who were in Dallas to attend the Texas Democratic Convention.
Barrientes Vela, the one-time Bexar County Precinct 2 constable whose public corruption trial is scheduled to start next month, is accused of angrily confronting Josey Garcia, the Democratic nominee for Texas House District 124, and Pharaoh Clark, outside a downtown Dallas hotel around 9:30 p.m.
Garcia, during a phone interview Monday with KSAT, said her necklace broke during the altercation.
Clark, a well-known local activist and former candidate for an East Side San Antonio city council seat, told KSAT that Barrientes Vela “chest bumped” him and pinned him near a wall of the hotel, located near the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
The convention center hosted the Texas Democratic Convention Thursday through Saturday.
Dallas Police officers were called to the scene but no one was criminally charged.
A DPD spokeswoman on Saturday declined to provide KSAT a copy of the offense report and instead suggested filing a public records request for it.
Garcia, who easily won the Democratic primary for Texas House District 124 in March, said Barrientes Vela was among a group of six to eight people who angrily confronted Garcia and Clark as they ate inside the hotel.
After Garcia and Clark went outside, they said the altercation escalated.
A criminal defense attorney for Barrientes Vela said via text message Monday it was his understanding his client was present but not involved in the incident.
It’s unclear why Barrientes Vela, who has not held political office since stepping down as Precinct 2 constable in October 2019, was in town for the statewide political convention.
She is free on bond awaiting trial for tampering with evidence.
The highly anticipated trial has been repeatedly delayed by COVID-19 and non-public health-related issues.
Last summer, attorneys for Barrientes Vela unsuccessfully attempted to have District Attorney Joe Gonzales removed from prosecuting the case, after comments made by his former political consultant were entered into the official record.
Days before the trial was scheduled to begin in April, it was delayed again for several months after her attorneys successfully argued that they did not have sufficient time to analyze hours of undercover audio recordings from the case.
Barrientes Vela faces two felony counts of tampering with evidence and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression, all related to her nearly three-year tenure as constable. She will go to trial first on the tampering charges.
Her former captain, Marc Garcia, faces a charge of aggravated perjury and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression.