Judge orders hearing to determine if DA’s Office, Wren Collective conversations relevant in ex-SAPD officer’s case

Subpoena filed ordering DA to hand over all communications between his staff and Wren Collective about high-profile 2022 shooting of teen by SAPD officer

SAN ANTONIO – In a hearing held Wednesday, a judge set a date for the defense and state to argue if conversations between the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and the criminal justice reform group, Wren Collective, are relevant in the criminal case of ex-SAPD officer James Brennand.

Brennand’s defense team filed a subpoena ordering District Attorney Joe Gonzales to hand over all communications between his staff and the Wren Collective, court records obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

The subpoena in the aggravated assault by a public servant case against Brennand was filed days after KSAT revealed Gonzales’ staff had extensive discussions about the case with Jessica Brand, founder of the Austin-based criminal justice reform group.

On-duty SAPD officer Brennand shot then-17-year-old Erik Cantu in a McDonald’s parking lot in Oct. 2022, after identifying Cantu’s vehicle from an evading arrest case the previous night.

On Oct. 7, 2022, Gonzales held a press conference to announce pending charges had been dropped by his office against Cantu. Those charges were aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest.

Records obtained by KSAT show that on that same day, just before 9 a.m., Brand texted First Assistant District Attorney Christian Henricksen recommending that Gonzales hold a press conference with Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announcing the dropping of charges and to state that the incident had harmed public trust.

Henricksen replied that he was trying to get Gonzales on the phone and would be advising him to dismiss the charges “immediately.”

Henricksen later texted Brand that he was rejecting the cases against Cantu and that Gonzales wanted to move forward with a press conference.

Brand replied that a member of her team was working on talking points for the press event.

Wednesday morning in court, Brennand’s attorneys argued those conversations potentially could taint a jury pool.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Daryl Harris said those conversations were not relevant to a change-of-venue hearing.

As he walked out of the courtroom on Wednesday, Harris told KSAT 12 that he had no knowledge that Gonzales and Henricksen were having conversations with the Wren Collective.

437th District Court Judge Joel Perez granted a continuance to allow each side to have more time to prepare arguments if the state decided to quash or challenge the subpoena.

That reset will be on March 7.

About the Authors

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.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.

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