Attorney for ex-Pct. 2 captain to withdraw after representing Barrientes Vela in civil suits

Marc D. Garcia ordered to appear before Judge Velia Meza at 1:30 p.m. Thursday

SAN ANTONIO – Despite being sworn in, former Bexar County Precinct 2 captain Marc D. Garcia left court Wednesday without taking the witness stand against his former boss, Michelle Barrientes Vela.

The temporary delay came less than a day after sources said Garcia agreed to testify about his tenure under Barrientes Vela in exchange for prosecutors dismissing all criminal charges against him.

Prosecutors revealed in court Wednesday morning that they had learned about new evidence in the criminal case against Barrientes Vela during “late night” discussions Tuesday with Garcia and his criminal defense attorney.

KSAT Investigates spotted Garcia walking into the Bexar County Justice Center around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday. He appeared to still be inside the building as of 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.

But plans to have him testify against his former boss were halted Wednesday after conflict of interest concerns surfaced.

Garcia’s attorney, Mark Anthony Sanchez, represented both Garcia and Barrientes Vela in multiple civil claims filed against the former Precinct 2 leaders by other members of the agency.

The county settled the various lawsuits for $467,000, nearly half of which went to Deputy Leonicio Moreno.

Judge Velia Meza had revealed just before court adjourned for lunch Wednesday that Garcia would likely need to find a new attorney and could even potentially be disqualified from testifying. Prosecutors informed the court of their intention to file a motion to have his attorney withdrawn after the hearing resumed Wednesday afternoon.

WATCH: Highlights from Day 5 of the sentencing phase of Michelle Barrientes Vela trial

Wednesday’s testimony focused on the chaotic manner in which Barrientes Vela ran her agency from the time she took office in January 2017 to her stepping down in October 2019.

Steve Moninger, an attorney for the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified about state laws pertaining to off-duty deputies working security.

Prosecutors have previously accused Barrientes Vela of violating the state’s Private Security Act related to her scheduling of deputies at Rodriguez Park and other events, including a church festival.

Defense attorney Jason Goss denied that Barrientes Vela violated the Private Security Act, comparing her security set-up to the house not taking a cut after a game of poker is played.

Renee Garza, court manager for Bexar County Precinct 2, made a revelation on the witness stand that had not been previously known publicly.

Garza testified that defendants with warrants out of Precinct 2 were being forced by deputies to pay money before making appearances in the justice of the peace court, a clear violation of court procedures. She testified that fines and fees in many of the 93 cases identified later had to be waived.

Precinct 2 Judge Roberto Vazquez, who shared a Northwest Side county building with Barrientes Vela, said he was forced to go to the then-district attorney in 2017 in order to get Barrientes Vela to stop the practice.

“They are directed to arrest that individual and bring them before myself or the local magistrate,” Vazquez testified.

Vazquez engaged in a combative back-and-forth with Goss, at one point telling the attorney how to properly object in court, before Meza told them to move on.

Vazquez repeatedly issued biting criticism of Barrientes Vela, recalling one meeting in which he sought to discuss with her the code of criminal procedure. Vazquez testified that during the meeting Barrientes Vela pushed a copy of the statutes away and let him know, “that she knew the code of criminal procedure better than any lawyer or judge, so I didn’t have to worry about it.”

Vazquez testified about a separate incident in which Barrientes Vela, unhappy with how 2018 budget sessions had played out, had the metal detector removed from the entrance to the Precinct 2 building, leaving it without security for 24-36 hours. Vazquez pointed out that the metal detector did not even belong to the constable’s office and was actually owned by the court.

On cross-examination, Goss said that Vazquez’s dislike of Barrientes Vela had caused him to act unprofessionally.

Current Pct. 2 Constable Leticia Vazquez, who took over for Barrientes Vela in October 2019, testified Wednesday afternoon that she inherited a mess.

The agency’s credit cards were frozen. Shelves of envelopes were found that needed to be mailed out but had not because the agency’s stamp machine was inoperable due to an outstanding balance.

Pct. 2′s property room was also in “disarray,” Constable Vazquez testified.

Barrientes Vela’s nearly two-week long trial concluded last month with a jury convicting her of altering security payment logs for Rodriguez Park and knowingly turning over false records to law enforcement after receiving grand jury subpoenas in the summer of 2019.

Barrientes Vela still faces three counts of official oppression related to her treatment of Moreno and a second Precinct 2 Deputy Christopher De la Cerda.

Prosecutors have indicated that they will dismiss those charges at the conclusion of her sentencing hearing for felony tampering.

Like Moreno, De La Cerda was given a six-figure settlement from the county last year.

Garcia was scheduled to go to trial for felony perjury in late November, and like Barrientes Vela, also faces multiple counts of official oppression.

The prosecution’s move to withdraw its criminal case against Garcia in exchange for his testimony likely indicates that the state is pushing for Barrientes Vela to serve jail time.

Garcia was ordered to appear before Meza when the sentencing hearing resumes at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Meza indicated in court late Wednesday that she will ultimately determine whether he will be permitted to testify.

Goss argued Wednesday that Garcia being allowed to testify would be a violation of Barrientes Vela’s constitutional rights, since Sanchez may have given him information Sanchez learned while representing Barrientes Vela in the civil cases.

Prosecutors said Garcia plans to testify solely off of what he witnessed while working under the then-constable.

Barrientes Vela faces between two years probation and 10 years in prison.

She has asked to be sentenced by Meza.

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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.

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