A misdemeanor assault case was dismissed Thursday against Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia despite the objections of her now ex-husband, who said the elected official was getting preferential treatment.
Fort Worth police cited Garcia for assault by offensive contact, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine, on June 8 after her then-husband, Chris Garcia, called 911 and reported that his wife had repeatedly shoved him in the chest at the couple’s Ridglea home.
According to a police report, Mary Louise Garcia told officers that her husband was “extremely drunk” and began to argue with her about her desire to divorce. She said she “gently pushed” her husband out of their bedroom and tried to close the door to separate herself from him.
The case was scheduled to go to trial Thursday morning in Municipal Court 2, but prosecutor Chris Austria moved to dismiss the case after conferring with Chris Garcia outside the courtroom.
After Municipal Judge Neel McDonald granted the dismissal, Chris Garcia asked why Mary Louise Garcia didn’t have to show up in court.
McDonald told him that the defense attorney, Lance Evans, had assured him that his client was on standby if needed.
Chris Garcia went on to tell the judge that he adamantly opposed the dismissal. He said that what happened in court was unfair and that Garcia was receiving preferential treatment.
McDonald responded that the prosecutor had wide discretion on the case and that it would be extraordinary for a court to deny such a motion.
“Respectfully, you don’t get to make that call,” the judge told Chris Garcia.
Reasons for dismissal
Fort Worth City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider said the dismissal was sought after Austria talked to Chris Garcia and both Fort Worth officers.
“Based on Mr. Garcia’s own admissions and officer Pennington’s statements about Mr. Garcia’s condition and statements the night of the incident, Mr. Austria made the determination that it was not in the interest of justice to prosecute the case and dismissed it,” Fullenwider said.
She said it was her understanding that the judge allowed Mary Louise Garcia to be “on call” for the hearing because “her lawyer wanted to keep the defendant and Mr. Garcia separated.”
Evans commended the city attorney’s office for its “professionalism” in dismissing the case after a “proper investigation.”
“Mr. Garcia was drunk, angry and belligerent on the evening in question. He forced his way into a locked bedroom where Mrs. Garcia was trying to sleep. It is sad that he then abused the legal system in an attempt to portray himself as a victim and smear Mrs. Garcia’s reputation,” Evans said. “Mrs. Garcia was fully prepared to present the truth in open court.”
After the hearing, Chris Garcia said he was “very disappointed” by the dismissal and insisted he was not intoxicated that night.
Chris Garcia said the prosecutor told him that he was going to dismiss the case because “the officers gave two different accounts of what happened” and he didn’t believe there was “sufficient evidence” to go forward.
“I thought my word was good enough, but obviously it isn’t,” Chris Garcia said.
Chris Garcia said he gave the prosecutor the contact information for a judge he had visited before going home that June night. He said the judge could verify that he wasn’t intoxicated.
Jim Pitts, who attended the hearing and described himself as a longtime friend of the Garcias’, said he also saw Chris Garcia that night and did not believe he was intoxicated.
“He was emotionally distraught but not intoxicated,” Pitts said.
“I think she got a walk because she’s an elected politician,” Pitts added.
Days after the domestic disturbance, Chris Garcia filed for divorce, later amending his petition to include the allegation that Mary Louise Garcia had committed adultery with a subordinate in the county clerk’s office.
Mary Louise Garcia countersued for divorce.
Last month, state District Judge Mike Sinha granted the couple’s divorce decree. The judge has not ruled on the division of property or on a request to seal the case from Mary Louise Garcia’s attorney.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655