A Texas court has ordered Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza to record all grand jury proceedings related to investigations into use-of-force by law enforcement, said attorneys for a police officer charged in connection with allegedly assaulting a man.
The motion filed by Doug O’Connell and Ken Ervin specifically cite the ongoing grand jury investigation involving Austin Police Department Officer Alejandro Gaitan.
“We believe the extraordinary number of police officer indictments obtained by Mr. Garza since 2021 has been the result of his office carefully selecting what evidence to show to grand juries, and more importantly what evidence to withhold,” O’Connell and Ervin said in a news release.
They said the court order’s intent is to “prevent Mr. Garza from abusing our grand jury system to indict police officers.”
“Our office will continue to hold law enforcement officers who engage in criminal conduct accountable and will do so transparently,” Travis County DA José Garza said in a news release.
Lawyers for Gaitan said Garza “sidestepped the court mandate, as well as the grand jury, and formally charged Officer Gaitan with multiple offenses without an indictment and without grand jury approval.”
“Mr. Garza’s actions have done nothing to dispel our belief that he intends to criminally charge police officers at any cost,” they said.
Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), said Garza doesn’t believe in transparency and that the “George Soros funded District Attorney is as dangerous as they come.”
“In an effort to achieve some transparency following an unprecedented number of police officer indictments, a Travis County Judge ordered the DA to record his presentation to the grand jury in the case against an Austin Police Officer and CLEAT member,” he said in a statement. “Garza promptly made the decision to circumvent the Judge’s order and the grand jury process by filing the charges against the officer via an information. His continued abuse of official capacity and dereliction of duty is criminal and must be dealt with.”
Garza has been criticized in the past for being tough on cops and soft on crime. Last year, he charged a suspect with a misdemeanor in connection with a fatal DUI crash, which led to a 10-day jail sentence. He also came under fire for a job announcement to prosecute law enforcement use-of-force cases. In February 2022, Garza obtained indictments against more than 20 APD police officers for actions taken during the violent 2020 riots.
The motion came less than a week after a case against Austin police officer Nicholas Gebhart was dismissed. O’Connell and Ervin are also representing Gebhart.
According to data compiled by the Capital Research Center, Garza is one of dozens of district attorneys around the country to have been substantially backed by leftwing billionaire George Soros, via direct contributions and supporting ads from activist groups such as the Texas Justice and Public Safety PAC.