MISSION — The drug charge dismissed against Palmview City Councilman Joel Garcia Jr. in Mission municipal court Thursday stemmed from bitter political motivations, he said.
A Mission police officer arrested the 29-year-old politician, who is also an auto collision teacher in the La Joya school district, in December. The charge lodged against him was initially possession of marijuana. Then-police Chief Martin Garza said after a review of the evidence in the case, investigators said the proper charge was Class C misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, according to Monitor archives.
“I really feel this case was politically motivated,” Garcia said, noting the afternoon arrest came shortly after election season. “It was a disgrace for me.”
He said though he could not confirm the ties, he believes the officer who arrested him is connected to a political opponent.
“Our opponent(s), as far as our rivals in the political world, they’re very cruel people,” Garcia said. “They seem to want to see blood. They got a kick out of this, I’m sure.”
Mission Municipal Court Judge Jonathan Wehrmeister dismissed the charge at the request of a prosecutor because the officer who arrested Garcia was not present in court to testify as a witness Thursday. The officer has since moved to the Austin Police Department.
“I’m glad, finally, the truth came out,” Garcia said. “I know he didn’t show up today. I was kind of disappointed about that. I wanted him to show up and I wanted him to prove my point, but I can’t control that.”
Garcia’s lawyer, Jaime Munoz, said the dismissal has vindicated his client and will allow him to continue serving the city and his students.
“There was no pipe,” Munoz said. “There was no form of any device that can be tied in to paraphernalia. We expected to see some form of evidence to substantiate my client’s arrest. The process worked in this case and they didn’t have any evidence.”
Garcia said the accusation against him led to criticism from citizens and affected his employment in the school district.
“I’m a law-abiding citizen,” he said. “I understand that if you disobey the law, there’s consequences to pay, but in this situation I didn’t do anything. It was a very frustrating feeling.”
Robert Dominguez, Mission’s interim police chief, said he doubts the officer targeted Garcia and recalls that the officer did not live in the Mission area, but in eastern Hidalgo County.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Dominguez said.
He said he didn’t know whether the court subpoenaed the officer to make him attend the hearing.
“The officer made, what I believe, is a just arrest in compliance with the law,” Dominguez said.
The Monitor made an informal request for the probable cause affidavit regarding Garcia’s arrest Thursday and was initially told one did not exist because the charge was a misdemeanor. Dominguez said the affidavit could be requested from municipal court. But, the document request was made after business hours, so there was no immediate response.
“Our officers, they’re not going to just arrest people at random,” Dominguez said.
Jacqueline Armendariz covers law enforcement and courts for The Monitor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4434 or on Twitter, @jarmendariz.