Despite some pretrial diversion failures, Bexar County DA touts expanded program

PTD offered in 360 felony cases last year

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County defendants given pretrial diversion repeatedly reoffended after landing dismissals, or in some instances, had their cases reopened after failing to complete the program, data analyzed by KSAT Investigates shows.

KSAT Investigates examined nearly 700 felony cases dating back to 2018 in which defendants applied for pretrial diversion, commonly called PTD.

The program, which is typically only available to defendants with either no prior criminal history or a minimal criminal history, and usually excludes defendants charged with using a deadly weapon, allows them to get a dismissal in their case and seek an expunction of their records.

Expunction is the process of deleting information about a person’s arrest and criminal charges from law enforcement records.

“This provides them with a chance to put their life back on track, to escape some very severe consequences that may follow you around for life. And a lot of times that is justice,” said Patrick Ballantyne, a criminal defense attorney who worked for 11 years as a Bexar County prosecutor.

Court records show some defendants given pretrial diversion in Bexar County reoffended. (KSAT)

Felony defendants in at least 77 cases since 2018 have been booted from the program, often because of new criminal charges, or have racked up new criminal charges after completing the program.

Fourteen defendants completed PTD only to reoffend, while 33 cases were reopened by prosecutors after defendants were unsuccessful in their attempts to complete the program, county records show.

In 30 other cases, PTD was unsuccessful, but court records did not include any updated information on the status of the charge.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office this summer confirmed that prosecutors opted to not refile charges in 23 of those cases due to evidence issues or not having a strong case initially.

Still, despite some failures, District Attorney Joe Gonzales touted a program that has expanded during his time in office and allows for a “cleaning of your record.”

“It’s one of the programs that I’m most proud of. We have offered 10 times as many defendants the opportunity to go through this program than the prior administration,” Gonzales said.

PTD was offered in 360 felony cases last year alone, according to Gonzales.

PTD also has the lowest rate of recidivism compared to all other court outcomes in Bexar County, a DA spokesman told KSAT.

District Attorney Joe Gonzales speaks with KSAT Investigates. (KSAT)

“We’re offering a conditional dismissal. That is to say that we may be willing to dismiss a case up front. We’ll give you the time to complete the program. And if you don’t, then we make the decision about whether to refile it,” Gonzales said.

Pretrial diversion is described as a contract between the prosecuting attorney and the accused person and usually includes taking appropriate courses for the charge, such as substance abuse or behavioral modification classes, community service and making restitution.

Staying out of trouble with the law is the most important aspect of PTD, according to Ballantyne.

Former Bexar County prosecutor Patrick Ballantyne. (KSAT)

The elements of a defendant’s pretrial diversion program are not made public, and judges in Bexar County are not even briefed on what requirements must be met to complete it, officials have previously said.

‘Wait till I talk to my grandma. Just wait. Just f***ing wait.’

Bexar County defendant Marissa Martin was given a dismissal through pretrial diversion in December 2020 for felony evading arrest with a vehicle.

The move from the DA’s office allowed her to not have a felony conviction on her record.

But just over two years later, in early January, Martin was arrested by San Antonio police for driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level over .15 and for having an open can of alcohol in her vehicle while driving intoxicated.

She was detained by an off-duty SAPD officer who spotted Martin driving erratically while heading home from his shift.

The off-duty officer is heard on camera saying that Martin had left her passenger in the vehicle and attempted to run into the house before he detained her.

Marissa Martin attempts to remove her boots during a field sobriety test in January. (KSAT)

A blood draw later revealed her BAC was .163, more than two times the legal limit to drive a vehicle, Texas Department of Public Safety records show.

SAPD dashboard camera video obtained by KSAT through a public records request shows Martin stumbling through a field sobriety test in front of a home in the 6000 block of Ridge Glade and unable to recite the alphabet.

“These are the people that kill people, dude,” an SAPD officer is heard saying on the recording.

No one was injured during this incident, charging records show.

After an officer requested that Martin blow into a breathalyzer instrument, she repeatedly told him to “go to hell,” according to the footage.

While being taken to jail, Martin repeatedly told the arresting office that she was going to get him fired.

“Wait till I talk to my grandma. Just wait. Just f***ing wait,” Martin said. “Y’all are going to be so sorry. But just know when I call my grandma and I tell her that you arrested me when I was already f***ing parked, yeah, you’re done.”

Martin is also heard on the recording making fun of the arresting officer’s name, calling him a “little sh**” and using a profane phrase to imply that the off-duty officer who followed her home is homosexual.

Martin pleaded no contest to a reduced drunk driving charge in June and was given 14 months of probation and ordered to pay $905 in fines and courts costs, records show.

Martin remains on probation through early August 2024, court records show.

Martin texted KSAT she “would rather not comment” when reached via text message last month.

‘I’ll tell my cousin to look into you, because you a b**ch!’

Defendant Anthony Salazar was given a pretrial diversion dismissal in a felony drug possession case in late June 2021, but has been charged in multiple criminal cases since then, records show.

In February 2022 Salazar was arrested by San Antonio police and charged with DWI over .15 BAC.

Officers dispatched to a crash near Highway 151 and Loop 410 found Salazar parked on the shoulder of the highway with an open container of beer in the center console and multiple cans of beer on the rear seat floorboard, records show.

Salazar failed a field sobriety test done in a nearby parking lot and appeared unsteady on his feet, dashboard camera footage of his arrest shows.

Anthony Salazar (right) is taken into custody by SAPD for DWI over .15 in February 2022. (KSAT)

While being taken to jail, Salazar repeatedly cursed at the arresting officer.

“F*** the cops!” Salazar said. “I’ll tell my cousin to look into you, because you a b**ch!”

A breath specimen provided by Salazar showed his blood alcohol level was .18, charging records show.

He was sentenced to 40 days in jail after pleading guilty in the DWI case in June.

By then, however, Salazar had been in custody multiple more times for charges ranging from theft to assaulting a pregnant person, court records show.

Warrants for family violence causing bodily injury and theft between $2,500 to $30,000 were issued for Salazar last December after a woman told San Antonio police he punched her in the face and then stole her purse while she was giving Salazar a ride, records show.

After the woman pulled over and ran from the vehicle, Salazar chased after her. Salazar later returned to the vehicle but kept the woman’s purse, an arrest warrant states.

Prosecutors dismissed the family violence charge in June since Salazar was convicted in the DWI case and dismissed the theft charge two weeks later due to insufficient evidence.

In May, a warrant was issued for Salazar for felony assault of a pregnant person after a separate woman told San Antonio police he put her in a chokehold and covered her mouth with his hand during an argument, charging records show.

Salazar was given two years probation in late July after pleading no contest, court records confirm.

His criminal defense attorney did not respond to a call from KSAT seeking comment for this story.

Defendant given pretrial diversion then stabs man with butterfly knife

Defendant Amanda Gonzales was given a pretrial diversion dismissal in a felony drug possession case in May 2021, but is now at a Texas Department of Criminal Justice treatment facility after a series of subsequent arrests.

Gonzales was arrested on two separate felony drug possession charges six days apart in April 2022, court records show.

In February, Gonzales was again taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after SAPD investigators said she stabbed a man in the shoulder with a butterfly knife.

Defendant Amanda Gonzales has been arrested for felony drug possession twice and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after getting a pretrial diversion dismissal in 2021. (KSAT)

Gonzales was given six years of deferred adjudication after pleading no contest during a June court appearance and is now on probation through June 2029, court records confirm.

Gonzales was transferred from jail to a TDCJ East Texas Treatment Facility last month after a motion to revoke probation hearing in one of her April 2022 drug cases.

Her criminal defense attorney did not respond to a phone message seeking comment for this story.

“You’re never going to have a program that is zero percent recidivism. I mean, because this is a human system. The criminal justice system is a human system and it’s subject to human failures,” Ballantyne said.

“That’s why this is called the practice of law, right, because you never get it right. You’re never 100% sure that you’re going to be able to prevent some crime in the future,” Gonzales said.

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.