Jesse Garza

Jesse Garza 

Five months after he was acquitted of sexual assault, a former Victoria County constable faces an eight-count indictment that includes blackmail, sexual assault and corruption charges.

Garza, 39, was indicted by a July-term grand jury on three counts of sexual assault, theft from a person, obstruction or retaliation, publishing or threatening to publish intimate visual material, harassment and official oppression, according to court documents made public Monday.

Garza had been accused of using his power and position as constable of Victoria County’s Precinct 1 to coerce a woman who wanted to become a peace officer into having sex during a ride-along on a rural, isolated roadway one night in 2017. Those accusations led to Garza’s removal from office and jail time.

In June, a jury found Garza guilty of official oppression but not guilty of sexual assault, sentencing him to a year in the Victoria County jail. The jury, which was composed of 11 women and one man, returned with the verdict after reporting an impasse during deliberation.

Since then, the former constable has remained in the Victoria County Jail.

Special prosecutor Tim Poynter, who serves as an assistant district attorney in Goliad, Refugio and DeWitt counties, said Texas Rangers uncovered evidence supporting the most recent indictment during their investigation into the initial sexual assault accusations.

The Victoria Advocate does not identify potential victims of sexual crimes.

According to his most recent indictment, Garza is accused of sexually assaulting a man from Dec. 1, 2009, to March 31, 2018, among other crimes.

During the punishment phase of Garza’s June trial, prosecutors presented evidence and testimony that they said showed Garza had blackmailed a man by sending compromising sexual pictures of that person, with whom he had once had a sexual relationship.

Poynter declined to comment about whether the man named in the eight-count indictment is the same man at the center of blackmail accusations at Garza’s trial.

Much of that evidence in that portion of the trial was gathered by an internal Victoria County Sheriff’s Office investigation, where Garza was working as a deputy at the time.

In 2016, Garza was fired from the sheriff’s office for “distributing obscene material.”

During his trial, in which Garza was represented by former Victoria County district attorney Dexter Eaves, jurors viewed photographs that showed Garza’s accuser engaging in sexual acts.

Prosecutors said Garza threatened to, and ultimately did, publish the photographs to damage the man’s reputation with friends and relatives who did not know about his sexual orientation.

After that information was reported by the Advocate in May 2016, Garza was elected months later as constable in a runoff election by a margin of five votes.

The most recent indictment further accuses Garza of distributing pornographic images of the man in retaliation for the man acting as a witness in a previous sexual assault and official oppression case.

Poynter said that man is cooperating with prosecutors and would testify in court if the case reaches trial.

Garza is also accused of stealing between $2,500 to $30,000 from the man, harassing him through electronic communication and using his office to sexually harass him.

The most severe charge, second-degree felony sexual assault, carry a punishment of two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Garza faces no enhancements from his previous conviction.

Apart from the official oppression conviction, he has no criminal history.

A trial is scheduled for April 1, according to court documents.

Garza is defended by Victoria attorney Keith Weiser, who was appointed.

“Regardless of how many counts are in an indictment, a person is presumed innocent,’ Weiser said.

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.

(1) comment

Grace Butler

It was incredible and indefensible that he was not found guilty on the initial sexual assault charge. I can only hope that this victim gets their justice this time.

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