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Michelle Barrientes Vela, former county constable, gets 90 days in jail for tampering with records

Illustration by Joey Palacios

Former Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela on Wednesday was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail and five years' probation on two felony counts of tampering with records.

Vela also received a six-year suspended prison term, and she was ordered to perform 600 hours of community service and pay a $2,500 fine.

Vela does not have to start serving her sentence while an appeal is pending, but the judge warned her probation is in immediate effect.

The sentencing by Judge Velia Meza was interrupted by “F*** the DA” curses directed at District Attorney Joe Gonzales from the benches on Vela's side of the court. Most of those benches quickly emptied of spectators followed closely by deputies.

Vela was convicted of tampering with records in connection with an investigation into accusations she was shaking down Easter weekend park goers in 2018 for security fees.

The DA — who was surrounded by deputies — was present for the sentencing.

"The message quite simply is that we are going to hold you accountable,” Gonzales told reporters. "If you are an elected official, if you commit a crime, you will be held accountable. No one — I mean no one — is above the law."

Barrientes was the elected constable for Precinct 2 in June 2019 when, evidence showed, she knew a criminal investigation by a Bexar County grand jury was underway. Barrientes altered, destroyed or concealed Rodriguez Park cash logs, according to the DA. Use of the park’s pavilion required a security fee by patrons. The logs reflected fees collected by the constable herself.

Barrientes was also charged with official oppression for the unlawful arrest of a deputy. That case was included in the sentencing phase of the trial and will not be tried later.

“This felony conviction means Ms. Barrientes will not be able to work in law enforcement. I commend our team for their hard work and dedication to seeking justice in this case. I also want to recognize Assistant District Attorney Dawn McCraw. This case marked the end of her three decades of service to Bexar County. Her leadership in this field will be missed,” Gonzales said.

McCraw was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Oscar Salinas of the Public Integrity and Cyber Crime Division. The Texas Rangers investigated the crime.

The DA and sheriff's office both have public integrity units for the county to police its own.

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