Barrientes Vela trial opens with claim that prosecutor and investigator set trap for troubled constable

Ex-constable charged with felony tampering with evidence

SAN ANTONIO – An attorney for indicted ex-Precinct 2 constable Michelle Barrientes Vela argued Tuesday that the prosecutor and lead investigator in the case teamed up to set a trap for his client and came away with nothing more than a few written records.

“And that’s why we’re here, not on she stole money, not on she mismanaged money, not on anything they were trying to get. We’re here on a couple of documents,” defense attorney Jason Goss said during his opening statement before the predominantly female jury.

Prosecutor Dawn McCraw, during her opening statement, explained in detail how the state believes Barrientes Vela tampered with records in the summer of 2019 after being issued a subpoena to hand over security receipt logs for Rodriguez Park before eventually handing over a set of records that she had created.

“The constable used different pens to make it look like it was different dates and made it look like it was filled over the course of time,” said McCraw, who is prosecuting the case and was also involved in the initial investigation into Barrientes Vela’s actions at the 38-acre park, which sits in the county’s Precinct 2.

McCraw added that a county whistleblower, a former Precinct 2 civilian clerk, is set to testify that Barrientes Vela instructed her to delete portions of the original receipt records.

The actual records being sought by law enforcement were recovered during a Texas Rangers and FBI raid of Barrientes Vela’s county offices in September 2020, McCraw revealed.

WATCH BELOW; Highlights from Day 1 of the trial

Here's a condensed version of what went down on Day 1 of the Michelle Barrientes Vela trial.

Goss repeatedly pointed out that McCraw and Texas Ranger Bradley Freeman have a longstanding working relationship and said the pair worked together to drum up allegations against Barrientes Vela shortly after a parkgoer accused the then-constable of shaking him down for cash on Easter 2019.

Goss described the now high-profile incident as a “misunderstanding.”

“She presented you a set of facts, but that set of facts is not what’s going to be seen by the evidence,” said Goss, referring to McCraw’s opening statements.

Freeman testified Tuesday and was cross-examined by Goss but was dismissed without going into detail about specific evidence recovered during the search. He is expected to be called back to the witness stand later in the trial.

Ken McGlamery, a former parks manager who has since been promoted to director of Bexar County Parks and Recreation, testified Tuesday afternoon about county policies for renting pavilions at county parks.

He acknowledged on the witness stand that a county official had incorrectly stated the parkgoer had canceled his pavilion rental.

Barrientes Vela’s attorneys have said the then-constable had approached the parkgoer only after being given that erroneous information.

Judge Velia Meza has told both the prosecution and defense that she wants the guilt and innocence phase of the trial to be completed by Sept. 1.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday and will be livestreamed on all our digital platforms.


About the Authors:

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.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.