Sexual relationship between district attorney intern, accuser forces DA to step down from cases

Attorney Jonathan Perez remains free on bond in four felony cases

Defendant Jonathan R. Perez sits in court March 3, 2023. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales formally recused his office from four felony cases against a San Antonio attorney this month, days after a former DA intern acknowledged in court that he had a sexual relationship with the alleged victim.

Former intern Andrew Arebalo admitted during a hearing early this month that he met the woman through social media and eventually had a sexual relationship with her.

Arebalo, a St. Mary’s University School of Law student when his internship began, 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, San Antonio attorney Jonathan 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.

Days after Arebalo testified, Gonzales submitted formal paperwork recusing his office from the four felony cases against Perez and asked for a special prosecutor to be assigned to them, Bexar County court records show.

The motion for recusal also indicated that the defense is likely to call employees and former employees of the DA’s office as witnesses.

Reached via text message Monday, Perez’s criminal defense attorney declined to release a formal statement about the recusals.

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

The felony charges include violation of a protective order and continuous violence against a family member.

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.

In three other cases: misdemeanor charges of burglary of vehicles, unlawful carry of a weapon and criminal mischief, no motion for recusal has been submitted.

Perez is tentatively scheduled to go to trial April 21.

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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.