A district judge intends to suspend a Victoria County constable accused of sexual assault after receiving a request to do so from a justice of the peace.
“I request that the district judge remove Jesse Garza from the office of constable of Precinct 1 of Victoria County, Texas, as a result of gross ignorance of his official duties,” states a petition signed by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Mary Ann Rivera. Garza is assigned to her court.
The request was filed to the Victoria County District Clerk’s Office on Thursday and was followed within minutes by an order granting Rivera’s request that was signed by District Judge Stephen Williams. As a result, Garza is ordered to file a written answer by 10 a.m. April 29.
Garza, who was elected by Victoria County Precinct 1 voters, cannot be removed from office by the county’s judge or commissioners. A petition, such as the one filed by Rivera, is required to remove him from office.
As of Monday evening, Garza had yet to be served with the order, according to court records.
But Garza’s suspension will not be official until a replacement constable is appointed by Williams.
The judge will also appoint a replacement to serve Garza’s term.
If Garza contests his suspension, a judge would schedule a jury trial at a later date to hear arguments for or against his removal.
In her petition, Rivera said she is requesting Garza’s removal because he has failed to fulfill any of his duties since at least Feb. 5, which marks the date Rivera was notified that his Texas Commission on Law Enforcement license had been suspended.
Rivera continued, saying Garza has not appeared at Precinct 1 court sessions. The absence, she said, has not only impacted the operation of the court but also required deputies and other Victoria County constables to perform his duties.
“My court and the residents of Precinct 1 need a full-time constable to perform the duties that Constable Garza was elected to perform,” Rivera’s petition states.
Additionally, Garza, through his attorney, declined to step down at Rivera’s request, according to her petition.
Although Rivera said Garza was not doing his job, the constable will continue to collect paychecks to the tune of $40,667 annually until he is suspended.
Kevin Cullen, Victoria County’s attorney, said after a Monday commissioners court meeting that Rivera had filed the petition as a citizen rather than as a representative of the county. Cullen added he helped Rivera file the petition but not as a representative of Victoria County.
Under Chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code, any resident of the county may file such a petition.
Cullen also asked for members of the public who were interested in serving as constable temporarily to contact him.
TCOLE officials suspended Garza’s peace officer’s license after he was indicted by a grand jury Dec. 18 for felony sexual assault and misdemeanor official oppression. Those charges resulted from a Texas Rangers’ investigation after a Victoria County woman accused Garza of sexually assaulting her during a ride-along in 2017.
Garza told Rangers the sex was consensual and occurred while he was off- duty in his personal vehicle.
Garza’s accuser said he was driving his county-issued vehicle and wearing his badge and gun, according to a search warrant affidavit.
He faces between two and 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Garza was elected to the constable’s office in 2016 after beating incumbent Richard Williams by five votes. Three years earlier, he was fired from the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office, where he worked as a patrol deputy, for allegedly violating a section of the Texas Penal Code related to the distribution of obscene material.
Garza could not be reached for comment.
Advocate reporter Ciara McCarthy contributed to this story.