A San Antonio native, Gonzales attended St. Mary’s School of Law and worked in both the Bexar County and Harris County district attorney offices before opening his own criminal defense practice in San Antonio. He is seeking his second term as district attorney.
Hear from the candidate
Please discuss your legal experience, such as how many years you’ve practiced law and how many cases you’ve tried before a judge.
I have been in practice for 34 years, including 12 years as a prosecutor. Of those 12, I spent four years as the current elected district attorney and eight years as an assistant district attorney in both the Bexar County and Harris County District Attorney’s offices. I have also been in private practice handling exclusively criminal defense for 22 years, as well as a magistrate judge for seven years. In my career, I have tried a total of 205 criminal trials before a judge. More specifically, 134 were jury trials where the guilt/innocence was determined by a jury and 71 criminal trials where the judge determined both guilt/innocence and punishment. It is important to note that of the 205 trials, I went to trial on 176 cases or 85% as a prosecutor.
How would you address the backlog of cases in the DA’s office and court system?
Since the day I walked into this office on Jan. 1, 2019, we experienced a significant backlog. There were over 2,000 family violence cases that had been filed with the previous administration over a period of several months but had not been touched. Our newly formed violence division began tackling that backlog and after a year, we reduced it to less than 20. There will always be a backlog in any office so long as the number of cases filed are greater than the number of cases disposed. Other factors that contribute to a backlog include manpower shortages and outside influences such as the recent pandemic. During COVID-19, the process of moving cases was affected by the inability to go to trial. Our office, along with the district court and county court-at-law judges and defense bar, began moving dockets via Zoom. Through this collaboration, we have significantly reduced the COVID-19 backlog. For example, we reduced the misdemeanor family violence backlog from 6,000 to 3,000 over this past year.
How would you assess the DA office’s relations with the San Antonio Police Department? How important is it to ensure there is trust between SAPD and the DA’s office?
Trust and coordination between the district attorney’s office and all law enforcement agencies that serve Bexar County, including SAPD, are essential to keeping our community safe. Since the start of my administration, we have maintained a high level of frequent and effective coordination between the DA’s office and the law enforcement community. An example of this is the frequent meetings we hold with SAPD and other area law enforcement agencies on issues of case preparation and filing, the discovery process and compliance with Article 2.1397 of the Texas Code of Procedure that requires law enforcement to certify that they have disclosed all evidence in a filed case. We have and will continue to proactively work with SAPD and other agencies to ensure that we have seamless communication and serve the interest of justice while maintaining public safety.
What is your stance on prosecuting low-level drug offenses, “nuisance” crimes like trespassing and street racing, and abortion laws? Should all laws on the books be prosecuted?
It is the statutory duty of every elected district attorney to enforce the law. However, I have a duty not only to prosecute but also to see that justice is done. Considering the large volume of approximately 60 thousand cases we review on an annual basis with about 230 prosecutors, it will not be an efficient use of resources or manpower to prosecute abortion. I do not see the justice in prosecuting either women who make decisions about their own bodies or those who provide that care. However, I will review every case filed in our office and reserve the right to exercise prosecutorial discretion when making decisions on whether to prosecute abortion care. As to prosecuting low-level drug offenses, we have already undergone several diversionary programs such as cite and release in order to reduce recidivism in Bexar County, which has been met with great success and saved more than $5 million in taxpayer dollars. Lastly, criminal trespass and street racing have been prosecuted under my administration when the elements of the offense can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.