SAN ANTONIO – The public corruption trial of Michelle Barrientes Vela was delayed another two months on Friday, days after new criminal indictments were filed in the case.
Jury selection in the high-profile case is now scheduled to begin Aug. 9, 226th District Court Judge Velia Meza said during a brief in-person hearing.
It was the former constable’s first in-person hearing in 16 months and the first before Meza, who was assigned the case after fellow District Court Judge Ron Rangel recused himself from it last month.
New indictments filed against Barrientes Vela and Garcia this week have separated each of the perjury allegations into individual counts.
The procedural move from prosecutors came after defense attorneys filed a motion to quash the case earlier this year.
What should have been a standard hearing to discuss the new indictments and the schedule in the case moving forward was instead marred by a supporter of Barrientes Vela, who tripped a KSAT photographer in the hallway outside court.
A second supporter used a black garment to cover the lens of the photographer’s camera, in an apparent attempt to prevent him from recording footage of Barrientes Vela as she walked into the courtroom.
Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies were forced to escort this reporter and the photographer into the hearing and a stepped-up security presence was in place for the remainder of the proceedings.
Barrientes Vela and former Precinct 2 captain Marc D. Garcia have been free on bond since being indicted in early 2020.
The new indictments did not change the substance of the allegations against either defendant, but did increase the total number of criminal counts Barrientes Vela and Garcia now face.
Barrientes Vela, who was formally removed from office in October 2019, now faces 11 criminal counts in all: six counts of aggravated perjury, two felony counts of tampering with evidence and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression, all related to her nearly three-year tenure as constable.
Garcia, whose next court appearance is not scheduled until August, now faces six counts of aggravated perjury and three counts of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
“The state took the allegations that were all in one indictment, and all the perjury counts, which were all in one count, and they separated them into individual indictments,” Patrick Ballantyne, an attorney representing Barrientes Vela, said after the hearing.
Prosecutors claim that Garcia, while writing a 2019 arrest affidavit, repeatedly used false statements in order to get a judge to sign off on it.
Since the alleged false, sworn statements were made as part of an official proceeding, a felony charge against Garcia and Barrientes Vela was warranted, according to prosecutors.
Both defendants face the official oppression charges for their alleged treatment and harassment of two fellow Precinct 2 deputies.
Vela, separate from Garcia, also faces two felony charges of tampering with evidence.
An indictment claims Barrientes Vela knowingly altered security cash logs in June 2019 after being accused of shaking down a San Antonio family for several hundred dollars on Easter 2019, during a gathering at Rodriguez Park.
Barrientes Vela is scheduled to attend a virtual status conference for her perjury case June 4, followed by a pretrial hearing in person July 1.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Aug. 9, Meza said Friday.
Meza told attorneys for both sides, “I need to get this case to trial.”