Felony charges against SA attorney in jeopardy after DA intern’s sexual relationship with accuser

Jury selection in trial for Jonathan R. Perez scheduled for April 21

SAN ANTONIO – Felony charges against a San Antonio attorney accused of repeatedly assaulting his then-girlfriend could be in doubt after a former intern with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office testified Friday that he had a sexual relationship with Jonathan R. Perez’s accuser.

Andrew Arebalo, 31, admitted in court that he met the woman through social media and eventually had a sexual relationship with her.

Arebalo, at the time a St. Mary’s University School of Law student, testified that he served as a paid intern doing legal research for the DA’s office from late 2018 until around August 2021.

Arebalo said after the woman told him in the spring of 2021 that her ex-boyfriend, Perez, faced criminal accusations of assaulting her, he took steps to distance himself from her.

He acknowledged that the woman’s case was assigned to Special Crimes, the same specialized unit he was working for while they dated.

“She had a case pending against her ex-boyfriend for whatever this is. And I go ‘whoa, we can’t talk about that,’” Arebalo testified.

He said he notified his supervisors at the DA’s office during his next shift. They made the decision to move the case to another unit, Arebalo testified.

Perez, who is still licensed to practice law in the state of Texas, faces seven pending charges from a string of arrests in 2020 and 2021.

The charges range from felony continuous violence against a family member to misdemeanor burglary of vehicles.

Perez is also accused of taking a handgun into a popular Leon Valley restaurant, Henry’s Puffy Tacos, in early 2021.

In that incident, witnesses outside the restaurant heard a woman let out a “blood-curdling scream” and that she said Perez was trying to hit her.

The woman, who had visible injuries, was later treated at a local hospital.

Witnesses identified Perez to officers and said he was armed with a gun and inside the restaurant’s bathroom.

The police report states that officers attempted to arrest Perez after he exited the bathroom, but he “refused to follow commands” initially. He was eventually handcuffed and a handgun was found in his waistband, the report states.

Friday’s hearing was temporarily delayed after a defendant in another case collapsed in court and had to be taken away in a wheelchair.

Perez’s attorney, Carolyn Wentland, seemed to doubt that Arebalo randomly met the woman on social media.

He acknowledged on the witness stand that his position granted him access to case files, but was adamant that he was unfamiliar with Perez’s case until the woman told him an assistant district attorney had been trying to contact her.

He testified that the woman did not want to pursue a criminal case against Perez.

The defense’s second witness, former Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Jordan Cadenhead, said the woman did not want to move forward with a protective order against Perez or to testify against him.

Judge Meza set jury selection in Perez’s case for April 21 but told prosecutors they needed to have a discussion within the DA’s office on how to proceed.

A prosecutor assigned to the case declined to comment while leaving court Friday evening but did confirm the state plans to move forward with its cases.

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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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