VIDEO: St. Mary’s law student wins civil judgment against ex, gets arrested on theft warrant minutes later

Attorney says Melanie Hagner used knowledge of the law to target her ex-boyfriend

SAN ANTONIO – A St. Mary’s University School of Law student won a civil judgment in court against her ex-boyfriend last month only to get arrested on a theft warrant minutes later, footage captured by KSAT Investigates shows.

The Sept. 15 arrest marked the latest legal entanglement for Melanie Hagner, 35, who was also arrested on Aug. 30 for violation of a protective order, court records show.

Prior to being taken into custody by Precinct 3 deputies, Hagner was awarded $1,200 in damages and $139 in court costs after a hearing before Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Julie Bray Patterson.

Hagner, a St. Mary’s law student who appeared on her own behalf, asked the court for a judgment of over $3,000 after claiming that her ex-boyfriend Juan “Tony” Valdez damaged her garage door during a dispute outside her Northwest Side home last November and that she later loaned him more than $500 so he could bond out of jail.

“How much money are you asking for the garage door? I know you are bad at math, but you do the math. I’m not doing the math for you,” Judge Patterson told Hagner after Hagner presented two estimates for work on the garage.

Hagner eventually told the court she would waive the request to get the money back that she loaned Valdez to bond out of jail.

Valdez was charged in November with kidnapping, burglary of a habitation, misdemeanor family violence and earlier this year racked up a violation of a protective order charge.

Hagner’s allegations against ex fall apart

Hagner told Bexar County Sheriff’s investigators that on Nov. 18, Valdez dragged her into his truck after she ran away from him, and then hit her before attempting to break into her home after again dragging her out of the truck.

During the November incident, BCSO deputy body-worn camera footage showed Hagner reciting portions of the Texas penal code while a deputy talked through what charges to possibly file against Valdez.

The same footage showed Hagner’s garage door badly damaged and off of its rails.

BCSO body-camera footage shows Hagner's damaged garage door. (KSAT)

But a supplemental BCSO investigator’s report, written more than two months after Valdez was arrested, revealed that Hagner was driving the truck during the dispute, contradicting what she told the arresting deputy.

The report also stated that both Hagner and Valdez took part in the disturbance and that an eyewitness claimed Hagner could have left but did not.

Valdez, a weightlifter, told KSAT earlier this year he opened Hagner’s garage door after she drove them to her home and ran inside with his truck keys.

He said the door was previously damaged and it was not his intent for it to come off of its rails.

Valdez, who had no previous criminal record, picked up the fourth criminal charge in January after Hagner showed up at his apartment while he was on house arrest, San Antonio Police records show.

Even though Valdez left the apartment and called the police, SAPD officers determined Valdez had violated a protective order put in place after the November incident by allowing Hagner to spend time there.

In April, on the same day Valdez and defense attorney Joe Hoelscher interviewed with KSAT, Bexar County prosecutors rejected all four criminal cases against Valdez.

A spokesman for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office previously said the decision was made after the attorney assigned to the cases reviewed a transcript of an earlier protective order hearing.

“I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed by the system,” Valdez told KSAT in April.

He denied dragging or hitting Hagner during the November incident and said he got out of his truck to run after her only because she had taken his cell phone.

Valdez said he suffered a tibia-fibula fracture and a torn meniscus during the incident.

“Will you please get out of my face with your (expletive) defamation?”

Hagner and Valdez had arranged to exchange personal belongings outside following the Sept. 15 hearing, as Judge Patterson told both of them she hoped the hearing would conclude their relationship.

But as Hagner attempted to leave the Pct. 3 complex a deputy placed her in handcuffs and informed her she had a pending warrant for theft.

“Theft of what? Theft of what? I haven’t done anything. This is neutral. I’m in a courthouse. Can I talk to the judge, please? I need to talk to the judge, please,” said Hagner as she was led away to be searched.

Hagner then began to cry and verbally lashed out at a KSAT news crew while Pct. 3 deputies searched her near the complex’s exit.

“Please stop violating my privacy and get out of here. Get out of here with the camera,” Hagner told a KSAT photojournalist.

During her hearing, Hagner had asked Judge Patterson to have KSAT’s cameras removed, only to be told by the judge that it was an open courtroom and KSAT had asked permission to record the proceedings.

Precinct 3 deputies search Melanie Hagner Sept. 15. (KSAT)

As Hagner was being loaded into a Pct. 3 patrol vehicle to be driven to jail, she told KSAT, “Will you please get out of my face with your (expletive) defamation? You’ve lied enough.”

An arrest affidavit obtained by KSAT shows that in April, a San Antonio attorney who employed Hagner as a law clerk told deputies Hagner used her credit card to purchase items at multiple stores around San Antonio.

The attorney told deputies she left her wallet in Hagner’s vehicle and then later noticed suspicious activity on one of her credit cards.

The attorney’s son also witnessed Hagner throw a credit card out of the window of her vehicle, according to the affidavit.

The card was retrieved by the attorney and her son, and was the same card that had suspicious activity on it, the affidavit states.

The attorney told KSAT in a phone interview that the credit card was used to purchase items at 6-7 stores and that she eventually identified Hagner in a photo lineup after turning over evidence to BCSO.

She said she employed Hagner for less than a month, with Hagner drafting motions and doing other law clerk work for her.

After firing Hagner, as the attorney retrieved work belongings from Hagner’s home, she noticed that items fraudulently purchased with her credit card were being used on Hagner’s redecorated front porch, the affidavit states.

A warrant for theft totaling $911.93 was issued for Hagner Sept. 12, records show.

She faces a charge of theft between $750 and $2,500, a Class A misdemeanor.

Hagner is scheduled to be arraigned on the theft charge in County Court 1 on Thursday, court records show.

She is free on bond in that case and in a separate misdemeanor violation of a protective order case, court records show.

Hagner was arrested on Aug. 30 after San Antonio police said she snuck inside Valdez’s apartment with a spare key and would not let him inside the residence unless they signed paperwork.

Melanie Hagner. (KSAT)

Officers who responded to the scene determined that Hagner had an outstanding warrant for violating a protective order and took her into custody.

A warrant had been issued for her arrest on Aug. 10 after investigators said she attempted to contact Valdez via cellphone, through text messages and social media and by making blocked caller ID calls, court records show.

The attorney appointed in Hagner’s violation-of-a-protective-order case was allowed to withdraw as her attorney after filing a motion on Sept. 18 in which she asked to be taken off the case.

In the motion, attorney Kristine Padrique Brown wrote that Hagner “persists in a course of action involving the lawyer’s services that the lawyer reasonably believes may be criminal or fraudulent.”

Reached for comment via telephone, Brown told KSAT the attorney-client relationship was unworkable.

“It has completely deteriorated at this point,” said Brown, who declined to specifically state what Hagner had done.

In granting Brown’s motion for withdrawal, the court wrote that Hagner contacted the court directly without giving the other parties in the case notice.

Her most recently court-appointed attorney did not respond to an email seeking comment for this story.

Hagner’s violation of a protective order case was moved to impact court on Sept. 21, records show.

Impact courts help move cases along that could otherwise be slowed down by court overflows.

Hagner named in burglary, unauthorized use of vehicle criminal complaints

A separate San Antonio attorney confirmed to KSAT earlier this year that she terminated Hagner from her clerk position after a charge on a client’s credit card was traced back to Hagner.

KSAT could find no record that Hagner was criminally charged in connection with that incident.

On Aug. 23, Valdez filed a burglary complaint with SAPD accusing Hagner of clearing out the majority of items from his storage unit in the 19300 block of Bulverde Rd.

Valdez has accused Hagner of burglarizing his far North Side storage unit, according to an SAPD incident report. (KSAT)

The stolen items include kitchenware, furniture, Christmas trees and appliances, according to an SAPD incident report.

Valdez told KSAT it’s likely the items were taken months ago and may have even been stolen while Valdez was in jail for the charges that were later rejected.

Aug. 31, Valdez filed a separate report with SAPD accusing Hagner of using his sport utility vehicle without his permission for more than seven months.

Valdez was eventually able to seize the vehicle from Hagner and have it towed to an area auto dealership, photos obtained by KSAT show.

An attorney for Valdez told KSAT that Hagner was notified three times that she did not have authorization to use the vehicle and twice declined mail delivery informing her she needed to return the vehicle.

Hagner has not been criminally charged in the storage unit burglary or unauthorized use of vehicle cases and both incidents remain under investigation, an SAPD spokesperson told KSAT.

A St. Mary’s University spokeswoman confirmed Hagner is an enrolled student in its law school, but declined to release additional details about her status there.

Hoelscher told KSAT he informed St. Mary’s officials that Hagner misused the school’s law materials and resources to “persecute” his client.

A second attorney for Valdez said Hagner has attempted to use the justice system to bleed Valdez dry of his finances, property and reputation.

“It terrifies me that she might become a lawyer and have a license and the authority that comes with it because she is absolutely misusing the law,” said Hoelscher.

“People with legal knowledge have a lot of power and though the system is slow, it is eventually, I believe, effective and it is going to be very effective now that it’s got going on Melanie Hagner,” said Hoelscher, referring to the pending criminal matters against Hagner.

The civil award issued to Hagner on Sept. 15 will be appealed to county court. Hoelscher told KSAT he plans to contest the amount awarded to Hagner.

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.