Judge to consider petition to remove Nueces DA; county attorney plans to prosecute

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez speaks during a press conference at the Nueces County Courthouse in April 2019.

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez speaks during a press conference at the Nueces County Courthouse in April 2019.

A judge next month will consider whether a petition seeking the removal of Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez on the grounds of incompetence and official misconduct can move forward.

Any Texas resident seeking the removal of an elected official can file such a petition, but a state district judge has to accept it and the county attorney has to agree to try the case. Last week, Nueces County Attorney Jenny Dorsey filed court documents in support of prosecuting the case, fulfilling one of the requirements for removal proceedings to continue.

Dorsey’s decision prompted a response from Gonzalez on social media, where the two-term district attorney characterized the effort to remove him as a “political stunt” meant to undo his 2020 electoral victory and levied personal attacks against the county attorney — who, during Gonzalez’s first term, worked under him as a prosecutor.

The Nueces County Courthouse in Corpus Christi on June 15, 2022.

The Nueces County Courthouse in Corpus Christi on June 15, 2022.

The parties will argue before Senior Judge David Peeples, whom the Texas Supreme Court assigned to oversee the case following voluntary recusals from 319th District Judge David Stith and 5th Administrative Judge Missy Medary, on the morning of March 8 at the Nueces County Courthouse.

In a Feb. 20 emails, Peeples said he will hear arguments on whether to issue a citation to Gonzalez, the next step for the case to proceed. The Bexar County judge said he would allow oral arguments and the submission of exhibits, but live testimony would be prohibited.

Allegations in petition

Colby Wiltse, a Nueces County conservative activist and Texas state director for County Citizens Defending Freedom, filed the petition on Jan. 20, alleging Gonzalez should be removed on the grounds of “incompetence, official misconduct, and failure to give bond.”

The petition lists more than a half-dozen reasons to remove Gonzalez, including accusations he has “mishandled and mismanaged” high-profile cases, including the prolonged capital murder cases related to the 2016 death of Breanna Wood.

Last fall, a judge found 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 the cases. The Texas Attorney General’s Office is trying that case after the district attorney’s office recused itself.

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Earlier this month, a judge dismissed charges against a Corpus Christi OB-GYN accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women following allegations the district attorney’s office lost evidence. An appeal of the ruling is underway by the district attorney’s office.

Other allegations in the petition include claims that Gonzalez has mismanaged a ballooning court backlog, failed to address a shortage of prosecutors and advertised his restaurant from his office at the county courthouse.

Members of the public with firsthand knowledge or similar experiences to the allegations described in the petition are asked to contact the county attorney’s office, said Dorsey, the county attorney.

The petition requests Gonzalez be indefinitely suspended as district attorney until a trial is held.

Gonzalez decries petition, county attorney

on Feb. 17, Dorsey filed court documents in support of the citation, which would start the removal proceedings. She wrote, “The original petition makes allegations that, if found true by a jury, would amount to incompetence or official misconduct or both.”

Hours later, Gonzalez took to his personal Facebook page to condemn the county attorney and the petition. In the nearly 26-minute, profanity-laced livestream, Gonzalez, a Democrat, suggested the effort to remove him was politically and racially motivated.

“To me, it’s political BS,” Gonzalez said in the live stream. “I promise you. I think if I was a white guy, maybe without tattoos, this would not be happening to me.”

The same removal process loomed over the former El Paso district attorney last year. Amid allegations of incompetence and misconduct and before proceedings got underway, the Democratic district attorney resigned before her term expired in 2024. After accepting her resignation, Gov. Greg Abbott was appointed a Republican district attorney to the position.

Dorsey, a Republican, declined to comment on Gonzalez’s claims, which are likely to be discussed in court. Her decision to prosecute was made after a “careful review of the petition and other evidence,” she told the Caller-Times Thursday.

Gonzalez declined to expand on his claims in a statement to the Caller-Times, saying he would “let my video speak for itself.” He only addressed the petition’s claims about case dismissals and prosecutorial discretion with cases concerning abortion or transgender issues.

Before she was elected as county attorney, Dorsey worked as a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office. In the Facebook video, Gonzalez said he regretted allowing Dorsey to remain when he was first elected in 2016.

Dorsey said his office examined whether his previous employment would affect his ability to try the case and found it would not. As a result, she said she would not recuse herself.

Jenny Dorsey, then a prosecutor in the Nueces County District Attorney's Office, presented an opening statement in a capital murder case in September 2018.

Jenny Dorsey, then a prosecutor in the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office, presented an opening statement in a capital murder case in September 2018.

Gonzalez, who said he will approach the Nueces County Commissioners Court for legal counsel in the case, said he expects a court order to prevent him from speaking publicly about the case.

As a result, he called on his viewers and the public to “spread awareness” about his claims.

“There will be a gag order,” he said during the video. “This is one of the reasons I am making this (Facebook) live. I am going to leave it here and I hope you guys share it, and I hope you do as much as you can to let it be known as to why I ‘m getting attacked.”

Race for district attorneys

In the Facebook video, Gonzalez claimed Dorsey’s decision to pursue the case was politically motivated, in part, because her husband, Chris Dorsey, had planned to run for district attorney in 2024.

In light of the petition, Chris Dorsey said he would not seek the office and, should Gonzalez be removed, would not seek an interim appointment. The Corpus Christi defense attorney condemned Gonzalez for the Facebook video.

“The lead law enforcement officer in Nueces County should not be making unfounded personal attacks and unfounded claims of racial bias,” Chris Dorsey told the Caller-Times Thursday.

Gonzalez has said he would not run for a third term, meaning the upcoming contest for district attorney in 2024 would be an open race.

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Facing possible removal, Nueces DA accuses county attorney of political stunt

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