District Attorney Joe Gonzales reflects on first term, goals for second term

‘I need to be able to be flexible enough to change’: Gonzales speaks about changes to his office and loss of prosecutors

SAN ANTONIO – A pandemic, backlog and retaining staff have been some of the problems that District Attorney Joe Gonzales had to face in his first term.

Gonzales is now reflecting on things that need to improve and goals for his second term.

One improvement is community engagement and educating the public on what his office does to clear up any misinformation.

“We handle 60,000 cases a year, and it’s always a challenge to make sure that we focus our attention on what is important,” Gonzales said. “But I want to make sure that people understand that we are trying to do the best job that we can and that everything is important to us.

As far as retaining staff, there is a pay difference from other counties. Gonzales mentioned in Harris County, starting salary for entry-level lawyers is $88,000, while in Bexar County the starting pay is $68,000.

But Gonzales said he also needs to evaluate how his office is being run.

“We need to take a good look at what works and what doesn’t, and certainly there are things that, that haven’t been working, then I need to be able to be flexible enough to change,” Gonzales said.

In the past month, 16 people have resigned from the district attorney’s office, some of those being top prosecutors and division chiefs.

There is current concern among the judiciary about the backlog and what would happen to defendants waiting to go to trial.

Gonzales’ first term despite the pandemic did have its successes.

His cite and release diversion program, saving $4.7 million in booking costs and the creation of a specialized family violence intake team, increased the number of cases reviewed each year.

As his second term begins on Jan. 1, the main priority remains, which is public safety and keeping violent criminals off the streets.

“We have to continue to, to work at doing our job, because crime does not stop and the victims of crime still expect their day in court,” Gonzales said. “They expect justice.”

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About the Author

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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