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Former Bexar County Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela Indicted On Felony Charges

Michelle Barrientes Vela, second from right, attended the press conference held by Judge Nelson Wolff on Wednesday.
Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
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Michelle Barrientes Vela, second from right, attended the press conference held by Judge Nelson Wolff in September 2019.

Michelle Barrientes Vela — a former Precinct 2 constable who is running for sheriff — has been indicted on multiple criminal charges, according to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Vela, 45, was indicted on both misdemeanor and felony charges that include official oppression, tampering with evidence, and aggravated perjury.

Her former captain, 40-year-old Marc Duane Garcia, was also indicted.  The charges against him include official oppression and aggravated perjury.

“After a thorough investigation by the Texas Rangers, with the assistance of the FBI, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the evidence that was submitted to us and then presented this case to the 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. Since these cases are pending, we can make no further comment,” said Bexar County District Attorney Joe D. Gonzales in a press release.

Texas Rangers and FBI agents raided her Gilbeau Road office in September last year.

Shortly afterwards, Vela announced she intended to run for sheriff in 2020, which triggered her eventual resignation as constable, a legal opinion issued by Gonzales.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff asked for the DA’s legal opinion under Texas law if Vela’s public announcement constituted her resignation under the "resign to run" provision. Gonzales found that it did.

Wolff announced the district attorney's findings during a courthouse news conference shortly after the raid on Vela’s office.

Bexar County commissioners selected Leticia Vazquez, a sheriff’s deputy, to replace Vela in October. 

The Precinct 2 Constable’s office has seen turmoil centered on Vela. She was accused of shaking down county park visitors on Easter weekend for security fees in 2019. A deputy constable filed suit against her for sex discrimination after an alleged 2017 hot tub incident in Galveston. Vela has previously said she was innocent of all allegations.

After being released on bond, Barrientes Vela posted the following video to her campaign's Facebook page:

She said an "injustice" was done when her hands and legs were shackled.

“We’re going to stay in the fight,” she said. “My opponent — this is one of his tactical, politic movements — along with the commissioners of Bexar County, along with other elected officials.”

She said she is staying in the Bexar County Sheriff's race. 

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.