Jesse Garza's criminal trial

Former Victoria County Constable Jesse Garza walks out of the courtroom during a break Tuesday. He is accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a ride-along.

A former Victoria County constable twisted an 18-year-old’s desire to work in law enforcement into an opportunity to rape her, the woman testified.

Tuesday, the second day of trial for former Precinct 1 constable Jesse Garza, 38, jurors heard from the first of prosecutors’ witnesses, including the Victoria County woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her by coercion in 2017. Garza faces two to 20 years in prison with up to a $10,000 fine for the second-degree felony.

The Victoria Advocate does not identify people who may be victims of sexual assault.

Special Prosecutor Tim Poynter spent much of the day leading jurors through dozens of text messages sent between Garza and his accuser. That evidence and the woman’s testimony, he said, would show that Garza had coerced her into sex through not only his position and power as an elected official and peace officer but also by taking her to a darkened, isolated Victoria County roadway where he demanded sex while wearing a gun, badge and uniform.

Although Garza was a constable at the time, he was removed from office in a civil jury trial in May at which he failed to appear.

But in his opening statement, Garza’s attorney, former Victoria County district attorney Dexter Eaves, refuted Poynter’s claims, saying the woman had a reputation for lying and that the case was founded on “he said, she said” accusations.

The woman was working at a grocery store when she met Garza, who was looking for allergy medicine. While helping him, she revealed her interest in working in law enforcement, and Garza invited her to a ride-along with him.

“If everything goes good with me, maybe one day I’ll run into you with a different uniform,” read one of her earliest texts to Garza.

But soon after their communications began, the tone of Garza’s messages suddenly changed.

“Watching them porn shows on your phone?” read one of the first texts from Garza to the woman.

When she asked what she should wear on the ride-along, he texted, “No booty showing shorts.”

Ride-alongs are meant to serve as an educational tool for prospective members of law enforcement. During their first of three ride-alongs together, Garza started a practice of texting the woman as they sat together in the front seat of his official pickup.

“You belong to daddy now” and “You like it, don’t lie,” read two of those messages.

Although the woman said she thought it odd at the time, she said on the stand that practice may have been to hide their communications. Some law enforcement vehicles contain dash cameras and microphones, but the woman said she was unsure whether Garza’s vehicle did.

“It wasn’t appropriate to talk about,” she testified.

Despite the unwanted messages, she described that first ride-along as “fun” and her opportunity to witness an arrest as “cool.”

After the first ride-along, Garza’s text messages became more frequent and increasingly inappropriate.

“You playing with a wiener?” Garza texted, beginning a conversation with her one day in 2017.

Later, he texted, “Well, you better make daddy happy” and “Put you in handcuffs and you’ll be calling me sir.”

Although the woman said the communications and their sexual nature were unwanted, she told jurors she played along and often replied with “lol” or “lmao,” which commonly signify laughter in text messages. She said she never told Garza to stop because she thought he could hinder her future in law enforcement.

“I never had that kind of contact with a grown man,” Garza’s accuser testified. “I did not know how to tell him no.”

Their second ride-along was uneventful, she said, except for an instance when Garza grabbed her breasts. She said she shoved his arm away in response but told no one.

After that, Garza’s messages became even more bold. He began asking for sex and at times encouraged her to consume alcohol even though she was underage. He also invited her to trips outside the Crossroads. The woman refused over and over again.

She also received a picture from Garza of his penis during her last class at high school, she said.

“You miss daddy?” “Skip school and come to SA with me” and “Let’s smash,” wrote Garza in texts.

The woman refused his advances and requests for sex each time. On the stand, she also said her responses were not flirting.

When the woman asked what she should wear to their third ride-along, which occurred at night in August 2017, Garza told her to wear “booty shorts” and to go shirtless.

That third and final ride-along marked the first and only sexual contact between them, and it was not consensual, the woman said.

After assisting Victoria police at a bar fight, Garza drove the woman to a secluded place somewhere in north Victoria County. The woman said Garza refused to tell her where they were or why they were there. He also refused to take her home despite her requests and complaints that it was past the time she was supposed to stay out.

“I said I just wanted to go home,” she told jurors, adding, “He said, ‘You’re not done yet.’”

So when Garza told her she could return home if she gave him a kiss, she complied by giving him a peck on his lips, she said. She said she also bit his lip to discourage more advances, but Garza was undeterred, she said.

Parked on the side of a dark, gravel road, Garza escalated his demands, telling her she could leave if she did what he asked.

At that point, the woman said she had become fearful.

“I looked at my phone, but I didn’t have any service out there,” she said.

Finally, Garza got out of the driver’s seat, opened her door and ordered her to have sex with him.

“I told him no, I didn’t want to do that,” she said, adding that she nevertheless complied.

“I wasn’t too sure what he would do if he got angry,” she told jurors.

The trial continues at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached jwilcox@vicad.com or 361-580-6515.

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Jon covers crime, public safety and the courts at the Victoria Advocate. Born in Huntsville, Ala., he grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism at Texas State University.

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