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Judge in Barrientes Vela case to weigh evidence on whether comments from DA’s former consultant tainted upcoming trial

SAN ANTONIO – The excessive profile public corruption case in opposition to ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela added one other stage of intrigue on Thursday, after the choose agreed to hear testimony about whether comments made by the district lawyer’s former marketing campaign consultant unduly influenced the proceedings.

At challenge, alleged comments made this previous weekend by Robert Vargas, a political consultant who helped first-term Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales win a Democratic main three years in the past.

Vargas, who hosts a weekly radio present, is accused of telling a possible witness in the upcoming Barrientes Vela trial that Judge Velia Meza “better do the right thing in this case or I’ll find a Democratic opponent to primary her,” in accordance to a movement for evidentiary listening to filed in courtroom Thursday.

WATCH: ‘Downfall:’ The story of ex-Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, a KSAT 12 Defenders particular

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Meza, who was assigned the instances in opposition to Barrientes Vela and former Precinct 2 captain Marc D. Garcia after Judge Ron Rangel recused himself in April, was made conscious of the alleged comments and felt they have been severe sufficient to enter them into the official courtroom file throughout a unexpectedly deliberate listening to on Wednesday.

Barrientes Vela beforehand elected to go earlier than Meza for punishment, if the former constable is convicted at trial, which means Meza might probably resolve whether to ship the former elected official to jail.

“It’s going to stay with me. It’s going to stay with me. I’m going to hear it,” stated Judge Meza throughout a listening to Thursday morning, after an lawyer representing Barrientes Vela instructed that the evidentiary listening to could possibly be moved to one other courtroom.

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Robert Vargas (left) served as a political consultant for Joe Gonzales (proper) till April 2018, prior to Gonzales’ election as district lawyer. (KSAT)

The listening to, scheduled for July 14, might probably consequence in Gonzales’ office being eliminated from the case.

If that occurred, the trial would doubtless be pushed to 2022 and could be prosecuted by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, in accordance to a supply accustomed to the prison case in opposition to Barrientes Vela.

A Gonzales spokeswoman didn’t reply to a request for remark Thursday.

The spokeswoman beforehand stated Vargas has by no means been an worker of the district lawyer’s office and has not labored for Gonzales’ marketing campaign in over three years.

Dawn McCraw, the lead prosecutor in the case, stated Gonzales would willingly testify throughout the evidentiary listening to and wouldn’t want to be subpoenaed to accomplish that.

Vargas, who was repeatedly paid hundreds of {dollars} by Gonzales for marketing campaign work in 2017 and 2018, in accordance to county election finance types, hosts a weekly radio present referred to as “Platica Politica.” A Facebook stay recording of the present confirmed that Vargas had a Precinct 2 deputy chief on as a visitor Saturday.

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The almost hour-long livestream, nonetheless, didn’t seem to embrace any comments from Vargas comparable to what Meza described in courtroom Wednesday or what was included in Thursday’s movement for a listening to.

Nico LaHood, the former district lawyer overwhelmed by Gonzales in the 2018 main, indicated that Vargas’ comments have been made offline on the taping of his radio present and weren’t essentially a part of the livestream.

“There seem to be some objective, credible witnesses that heard it and they are going to have to be prepared to testify,” stated LaHood.

An lawyer claiming to characterize Vargas attended Thursday’s listening to.

Vargas, in a written assertion launched Wednesday, advised the KSAT 12 Defenders, “The statements described by Judge Meza are clearly hearsay, and in the Judge’s own words, only ‘tangential’ in nature. In my opinion, the accusations are politically motivated. I made no statements of any kind.”

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“We don’t have a process that’s predicated on trying to intimidate judges. We don’t intimidate jurors and we don’t want to intimidate judges,” stated LaHood, who described Vargas’ comments as a “veiled political threat” and never prison in nature.

A supporter of Michelle Barrientes Vela, outfitted with a body-worn digital camera, walks exterior 226th District Court on Thursday. (KSAT)

Barrientes Vela had a number of rows of supporters in attendance for Thursday’s listening to, which additionally included an elevated presence of Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies.

Barrientes Vela was allowed to sit in a witness room prior to the listening to, however repeatedly walked into the hallway.

She didn’t reply to a number of questions on developments in her prison case as she walked out of courtroom.

Barrientes Vela and Garcia have been indicted in January 2020, accused of committing crimes throughout her tumultuous tenure as Bexar County Precinct 2 constable ranging from aggravated perjury to official oppression.

Prosecutors in late May quietly dismissed the aggravated perjury cost, essentially the most severe cost Barrientes Vela was going through.

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She stays charged with two felony counts of tampering with evidence and three misdemeanor counts of official oppression.

A replica of the May 27 dismissal signifies that the case will as a substitute be used throughout the punishment section of her trial, if Barrientes Vela is convicted.

Her prison trial remains to be tentatively scheduled to start in early October.

Garcia, whose subsequent schedule courtroom look is Aug. 2, nonetheless faces the aggravated perjury cost and three counts of official oppression, courtroom information present.

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