Ex-captain planned to testify that Barrientes Vela directed him to pad criminal complaint

Flawed investigation of ex-constable’s political opponent was at center of former captain Marc D. Garcia’s testimony

Then-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela (left) directed captain Marc D. Garcia (center) to investigate fellow deputy Leonicio Moreno (right) in Feb. 2019, court records reveal. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Former Bexar County Precinct 2 captain Marc D. Garcia was prepared to testify Tuesday that his former boss, ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, directed him to investigate her political opponent and include evidence not related to the possible criminal offense, court records obtained Wednesday by KSAT Investigates show.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Garcia was given immunity Tuesday from four criminal charges in exchange for testifying to potential lawbreaking by Barrientes Vela, who was convicted on two counts of felony tampering with records Sept. 1.

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The summary of testimony from Garcia, labeled a supplemental proffer, and his immunity agreement were released to KSAT following a public records request.

Following conflict of interest concerns raised by the ex-constable’s defense attorneys, Garcia testified in camera Tuesday morning, meaning it took place in front of the judge and attorneys without spectators or cameras present.

Following the closed-door hearing, Judge Velia Meza granted a motion from the defense to exclude Garcia’s testimony and not have it considered during the ongoing punishment phase of Barrientes Vela’s trial.

Garcia left the courthouse around 2 p.m. Tuesday without having to take the witness stand in open court.

Garcia believed Barrientes Vela was not truthful about evidence

Garcia’s proffer includes a detailed timeline of how a flawed 2019 criminal investigation of fellow Precinct 2 deputy Leonicio Moreno came together.

Moreno, a former member of Barrientes Vela’s administration, got sideways with the then-constable following an incident in a hot tub during a 2017 work trip in Galveston.

Issues between Moreno and Barrientes Vela piled up from there and culminated with his April 2019 arrest on a felony charge of aggravated perjury.

The arrest came shortly after Moreno filed to run against Barrientes Vela for constable in the 2020 election.

In late February 2019, Barrientes Vela directed Garcia to investigate whether Moreno made false claims in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the agency, records show.

Moreno’s complaint specifically stated that he had been hazed by fellow deputies during a swearing-in ceremony.

Days after Moreno’s arrest in early May 2019, Barrientes Vela gave Garcia documents he had not seen before as he was preparing to submit a prosecution packet to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Garcia’s proffer states that Barrientes Vela did not help him write the probable cause affidavit for the arrest warrant but did direct him to include specific content.

Barrientes Vela also discussed Moreno’s campaign to run against her for constable, the proffer states.

“The Defendant (Barrientes Vela) directed Garcia to include as part of the probable cause, other items not related to the actual offense,” the proffer states.

Other “evidence” against Moreno included emails on Barrientes Vela’s computer that she showed to Garcia. When Garcia asked for the items from Barrientes Vela’s computer in support of probable cause, she told him her computer was hacked or that something was wrong with it, the proffer states.

Barrientes Vela also told him Moreno was friends with a First Amendment auditor who was part of a group that had repeatedly disrupted operations at the Precinct 2 offices.

“Therefore, the Defendant (Barrientes Vela) stated all of the evidence related to the auditors’ disruptive activity was attributed to Moreno as well,” the proffer states.

Garcia wanted the DA’s office to review his arrest warrant affidavit.

Despite Precinct 2′s then-chief deputy Anthony Castillo concurring with that course of action, Barrientes Vela instead instructed Garcia to go to a judge and have it signed, according to the proffer.

After a judge signed the warrant, Moreno was subsequently arrested by fellow members of his agency. Moreno’s booking into jail was delayed until the media could arrive and record him in handcuffs, previous KSAT Investigates stories and courtroom testimony has shown.

Prosecutors dismissed the criminal case against Moreno within hours and DA Joe Gonzales later said he did not believe Moreno had committed a crime.

“Garcia determined at some point after the investigation was completed and Moreno’s arrest that the Defendant (Barrientes Vela) was not truthful with him regarding the existence of the evidence against Moreno. Garcia stated if he had known the truth, he would not have obtained the arrest warrant,” the proffer states.

Bexar County paid Moreno $215,000 as part of a mediated settlement last year to settle his civil claims against Barrientes Vela and Garcia.

Sentencing for Barrientes Vela is scheduled to resume the first week of January.

The ex-constable faces between two years probation and 10 years in prison.

She has asked to be sentenced by Judge Meza.

Barrientes Vela’s criminal defense attorney, Jason Goss, released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“Everything in that proffer came after the DA’s put enormous pressure on Mr. Garcia and then offered to drop all of his cases and make him immune from prosecution. Accordingly, everything he said to save himself should be taken in that context.”

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.

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