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Amid felony charges, former Precinct 2 constable Michelle Barrientes Vela will continue her campaign for sheriff.
Vela and her former captain Marc Duane Garcia were indicted on felony and misdemeanor charges Thursday. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said that his office reviewed evidence from an investigation by the Texas Rangers with the assistance of the FBI and presented the case to a grand jury.
“The Grand Jury determined that there was probable cause that crimes were committed and returned true bills of indictment against former Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and former Captain Marc Duane Garcia,” Gonzales said in a statement. “Since these cases are pending, we can make no further comment.”
Vela was indicted on one felony count of aggravated perjury, two felony counts of tampering or fabricating evidence, and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression.
The five-page indictment includes the charge that Vela made false statements under oath about her former employee, Leonicio Barrera Moreno, who filed two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints against Vela. The indictment states that Vela and Garcia created a hostile work environment for Moreno and another former employee, Christopher De La Cerda.
Also included in the indictment are charges that Vela “altered, destroyed, or concealed” Rodriguez Park receipt logs. Bexar County resident Jesus Reyes accused Vela of forcing Reyes to pay her deputies when he rented a pavilion at Rodriguez Park last Easter, when the county had already arranged for officers to watch all county parks that day. Vela denied the accusation.
Vela and Garcia both posted bond on Thursday, and Vela spoke with reporters after being released.
“I’m going to continue to go forward because we need stronger individuals who are willing to go against corruption,” Vela said in a video posted to her Facebook campaign page. “If that means being handcuffed, shackled, and coming down here, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Vela’s attorney Leslie Sachanowicz said her campaign will not be affected by the legal process.
“This case is not going to go to trial before the primary,” Sachanowicz said. “This case might go to trial at the end of the year, maybe. I tell my clients everything in legal land moves at snail speed, but our society operates on Amazon Prime next-day speed.”
Vela was removed from office in September after the former constable told news reporters she intended to run for Bexar County Sheriff in 2020, which triggered an automatic resignation. Though Vela fought the County’s decision to find an interim replacement, Bexar County commissioners appointed her replacement in October and swore in Leticia Vazquez after Vela’s restraining order was lifted by a judge.
Vela’s run may be a long shot in the March primary. The Democratic candidate trails her primary opponents in fundraising, reporting $1,630 in her latest campaign finance report and spending more than $50,000. Vela also reported more than $60,000 in loans, primarily from herself. Incumbent Sheriff Javier Salazar reported more than $78,000 raised and spent more than $85,000 in the same reporting period. Sharon Rodriguez reported raising $3,839, while Jose Trevino reported raising $13,395.