Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez never expected a policy change to cause such uproar.
“I didn’t think it was going to be something that raised as much concern as it has,” said Gonzalez.
He’s talking about his office’s new policy to not try 27 misdemeanor offenses if they’re attached to a felony. These offenses include marijuana possession, criminal trespass, public lewdness, and reckless driving. Gonzalez says these charges are often dropped after a conviction; the new policy drops them before trial.
“Whenever they get a huge amount of time in prison, if they have three or four misdemeanors, we dismiss them in lieu of that because they’ve taken a deal, or they’ve been sentenced,” said Gonzalez.
The policy calls on officers to detail the entire case into one report, instead of separate reports for each charge. Gonzalez believes the change will streamline the process for his office, and law enforcement.
“Officers don’t have to bring us five different cases, five different secretaries don’t have to compile those cases, five different lawyers don’t have to look at them,” said Gonzalez.
The change was outlined in a letter to law enforcement, but every agency didn’t get the message. Nueces County Sheriff John Hooper says his office never received the letter. Gonzalez accepts responsibility, and says his letter could have been clearer.
“That would probably be my fault,” said Gonzalez. “I should have called all the heads of all the law enforcement agencies and said “let’s come together, this is what we want to do. What are your concerns on it?” We failed to do that.”
The Corpus Christi Police Officers Association raised concerns about the policy, because resisting arrest is one of those 27 misdemeanors. But Gonzalez says the policy allows officers to pursue a resisting charge.
“If they feel strongly about it, they still have the ability to come to our office and staff that case with us,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez initially defended the policy in a video posted to Facebook last Friday. He says he prefers to make announcements over social media because he gets the entire message out, instead of the sound bites we pick. To that end, KRIS 6 News is posting the entire conversation with the D.A. below.