Prosecutors dismiss most serious criminal charge against Barrientes Vela

Trial for tampering with evidence scheduled to start in early October

Michelle Barrientes Vela arrives in court on February 26, 2020.
Michelle Barrientes Vela arrives in court on February 26, 2020. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County prosecutors have dismissed the most serious public corruption charge against indicted ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, court records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders Wednesday confirm.

Barrientes Vela, who made a virtual court appearance in the 226th District Court Wednesday morning, will now first go to trial on two counts of tampering with evidence.

That trial is now tentatively scheduled to begin on October 4.

Judge Velia Meza said Wednesday in court that she hopes to begin jury selection in the case on Sept. 30.

WATCH: ‘Downfall:’ The story of ex-Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, a KSAT 12 Defenders special

A spokeswoman for Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales did not respond to a request for comment on his office’s decision to dismiss the felony perjury charge.

A copy of the May 27 dismissal obtained by the Defenders Wednesday indicates that the case will instead be used during the punishment phase of her trial.

Barrientes Vela has chosen to be punished by the judge, instead of allowing a jury to decide her punishment if she is convicted, her attorney confirmed in court Wednesday.

Barrientes Vela, who has repeatedly proclaimed her innocence, still also faces three misdemeanor counts of official oppression, all related to her nearly three-year tenure as Bexar County Precinct 2 constable.

Her former captain, Marc D. Gracia, still faces his aggravated perjury charge as well as three counts of official oppression, court records show.

Legal experts and one of Barrientes Vela’s criminal defense attorneys said earlier this year that the aggravated perjury charges would have been the hardest to prove at trial.

“You have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that whatever the alleged false statement was, was actually false. You have to prove that the person making it knew it was false at the time they were making it. And you have to show it was in connection with an official proceeding. Those are a lot of elements and it’s a lot of what’s going on in the defendant’s head at the time and what she knew. That’s always very difficult to prove,” Barrientes Vela’s attorney Patrick Ballantyne said earlier this year.

Ballantyne previously pushed back on the two charges of tampering with evidence filed against Barrientes Vela, claiming during an interview that records related to Barrientes Vela working security at Rodriguez Park were not tampered with.

An indictment claims Barrientes Vela knowingly altered 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 the park.


About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.