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Petition filed seeking removal of Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez

Mark A. Gonzalez 0523 1.jpg
Posted at 6:35 PM, Jan 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 14:41:24-05

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the occupation of the person filing the petition.

A petition seeking the removal of Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez was filed late Friday in District Court and assigned to 319th District Court Judge David Stith's court.

Gonzalez, who is in his second term as DA, is responsible for the prosecution of felony and misdemeanor cases within Nueces County. His term expires on Dec. 31, 2024.

The petition, brought by Nueces County resident and Texas State Director for County Citizens Defending Freedom, Colby Wiltse, alleges Gonzalez should be removed from public office "due to incompetency, official misconduct, and failure to give bond."

"During Defendant's current term of office, he has mishandled and mismanaged murder cases, motions to revoke, criminal dismissal rates, and intentionally nullified duly enacted laws of his oath of office," the petition stated. "Under the Defendant's charge and supervision, the criminal justice system in Nueces County is in crisis with backlogged cases and a shortage of experienced professional prosecutors."

When reached for comment by 6 Investigates, Gonzalez said he wanted to comment, but could not do so until he had an opportunity to review the petition.

KRIS 6 News provided Gonzalez with a copy of the filed petition, and a deadline to respond but did not hear back.

Chapter 87 of the local government code establishes the process to remove certain county officers; including a district attorney. That process begins with the filing of a petition in district court.

Under the state statute, a district court judge must determine if there is cause to issue a citation to the elected official. Once that determination is made, the citation sets a time and date, no sooner than five days from the issuing of the citation, for the elected official to appear before a jury and answer the allegations made in the petition.

The case is prosecuted by the county attorney, except in cases where the removal of the county attorney is sought. If a citation is issued, the judge may determine it is in the best interest of the public to temporarily suspend the elected official until a decision is reached.

Only a jury has the power to remove a county official, according to state law. And following the jury's deliberation, either party has one opportunity to appeal the decision.

Finally, if the officer is removed, the governor appoints a replacement, until the next election.

State law allows for removal under incompetency, official misconduct, intoxication, or failure to give a bond.

Bonds are required of many public employees to cover potential losses arising from neglect or serious offenses committed by the elected official.

In the case of the office of the district attorney, the bond amount is $5,000 and is paid for by the governor and filed with the state comptroller. The district attorney has an option to not post a bond, if the commissioner's court elects to insure the district attorney against losses.

According to the filed petition, Gonzalez took office on Jan. 1, 2017, and is alleged to have not filed a bond until Feb. 1, 2019. That bond was filed with the Nueces County Clerk, not the state comptroller.

ALLEGATIONS OF INCOMPETENCY

The petition also alleges incompetency as it relates to the murder case of Breanna Wood. Wood was killed in 2016 and seven people were charged in connection with her death.

6 Investigates has previously reported Nueces County DA First Assistant Angelica Hernandez allowed Wood's mother, Fallon Wood, to access discovery in the pending capital murder cases of Joseph Tejeda and Sandra Vasquez.

Following this report, criminal defense attorneys filed motions to dismiss in both cases.

In a ruling, Judge Manuel J. Banales wrote:

"The Court finds that, although there was credible evidence of gross incompetence, negligence and/or carelessness on the part of the Nueces County District Attorney's Office in the prosecution and investigation of these cases, such misconduct does not rise to the level requiring the dismissal of the capital murder indictments."

In both the cases of Breanna Wood and several cases in which a physician is accused of sexually assaulting patients, the petition alleges Gonzalez has "failed to enact policies for the handling or accountability of evidence in high profile cases often leading to significant delay in the administration of justice."

The petition also highlights the failure of the DA's office to pursue indictments "in support of motions to revoke probation."

6 Investigates reported on this in June 2022 and spoke with the Nueces County Community Supervision and Correction Department Director following the murder of two women at the Windrush apartment complex.

CSCD Director William Shull said their deaths could have been avoided if the DA's office had not abandoned new charges against the man who is accused in their deaths.

The petition also says the DA's office dismissed thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases.

6 Investigates reported on dismissals by the district attorney's office in August 2022 and its impact on programs designed to rehabilitate offenders.

Among other complaints, the petition alleges Gonzalez has made social media posts advertising his private business, Cruisers, from his office at the Nueces County Courthouse.

"The Defendant's use of government property, services, and his official time to transact business in furtherance of his private gain is an abuse of position," the petition states.

According to the petition, Wiltse is requesting a citation be issued and Gonzalez be temporarily suspended from the office of District Attorney until a trial is concluded.

KRIS 6 News will update this story with Gonzalez' response once we hear back.

This is a developing story, stay with KRIS 6 News for updates.

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