SAN ANTONIO – The conversations between the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and a criminal justice reform group continue to raise concerns. Now, the DA’s Office has told KSAT 12 it no longer wants to comment about the criminal justice reform group the Wren Collective.
Earlier this week, KSAT 12 released portions of the 204 pages of conversations that talked about policy and high-profile cases amongst DA Joe Gonzales, First Assistant DA Christian Henricksen and Wren Collective founder Jessica Brand.
Friday morning KSAT 12 reached out to the DA’s Office asking for an interview with Henricksen. This evening, we finally heard a response from DA spokesman Pete Gallego.
Here is the response:
“On behalf of our office, I earlier expressed the DA’s willingness to discuss the Wren Collective issue in an interview with your station. However, he has now done so. DA Joe Gonzales answered detailed questions about the issue when he interviewed with Steve Spriester and Myra Arthur. He was clear, direct, and forthcoming in his responses. Neither he nor any other employee of the office can add further clarity to a simple effort to supplement the knowledge and expertise in our office in order to improve the administration of justice. It is common for professionals to ask other professionals for advice. In our case preparation and in our courtroom appearances, lawyers use experts every day. These experts are used to assist both the attorneys and ultimately the judge or jury of the rightness of a cause. Medical doctors also routinely request assistance from specialists in areas outside of their own fields of expertise. Similarly, at no cost, our office sought expertise from the Wren Collective. It is not, as KSAT has alleged, a “mysterious” group. It is one of few repositories of research and information on criminal justice reform; and, their website is openly available online. Further, it is not in the least surprising that the previous two DA’s did not look to the Wren Collective for research or other information. DA’s in Bexar County have traditionally continued doing what their predecessors did. They would have no need of experts in criminal justice reform. This is the first DA who campaigned on and was elected on a pledge to rethink the process, improve the office, and be smart on crime. DA Gonzales’ approach is having an impact. His cite and release implementation empowered law enforcement officers to make decisions in the field and save millions in taxpayer dollars. Pre-trial diversion programs have among the lowest recidivism rates of any existing Bexar County criminal justice programs. The office has the highest conviction rates on murder cases in over a decade (and arguably not so coincidentally, homicides in San Antonio are down by double digit figures and overall violent crime against individuals has also seen a decline). Felony DWI convictions hover around 90%. All of these are evidence of programmatic success. Over the last weeks, our prosecutors have been extremely busy in the Justice Center courtrooms and have obtained significant verdicts. That is where our time is better spent: upholding justice and successfully prosecuting criminals on behalf of the citizens of Bexar County instead of adding fuel to scurrilous conspiracy theories and legitimizing fake news.” -pete
On Friday, Senior Criminal District Court Judge Ron Rangel said he was concerned with the conversations had about the judiciary.
“It was a little surprising to me that anybody would take such direction from an outside group,” said 379th District Court Judge Ron Rangel. “A group that doesn’t understand Bexar County, the citizens of Bexar County, and the way things work in this community.”
Also Friday, KSAT obtained a letter Sheriff Javier Salazar sent to Gonzales this week.
Salazar wrote that he was not pleased with how often his name was utilized in the back-and-forth messaging between Gonzales, Henricksen and Jessica Brand, founder of the Wren Collective.
The Wren Collective was formed in Feb. 2020, Texas Secretary of State records show, meaning it would not have been possible for the previous two DAs in Bexar County to look to the Wren Collective for information.
The working relationship between the DA’s office and Brand, which dates back to at least January 2019, the same month Gonzales took office, had not been publicly acknowledged by the DA’s office until this week. This further shows that Brand was having discussions with the DA’s Office before her company had formally been formed in Texas.
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