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Special prosecutor does not plan on wasting time moving cases forward

By Gheni_Platenburg
July 7, 2010 at 2:07 a.m.


The newly named special prosecutor in the cases of Victoria Police Lt. Ralph Buentello and former city attorney David Atmar Smith seems ready to get the show on the road.

"I plan on contacting the defense attorneys the first part of next week," said special prosecutor Terry McDonald.

District Judge Stephen Williams issued an order on Tuesday appointing San Antonio attorney Terrence W. McDonald as the new prosecutor, replacing Port Lavaca attorney Jerry Clark, who held the position since June 21.

"(Williams) asked if I would be willing to take the position. I told him I had no problem with it," McDonald said. "I appreciate that someone has confidence in me and my ability to do the job."

Buentello and Smith, whose cases recently stopped being on hold following the finish of Police Chief Ure's case, are fighting perjury charges stemming from the 2008 sexual abuse investigation of former Victoria County Sheriff Michael Ratcliff.

Although McDonald just came on board, the 67-year-old is no stranger to the whole Ratcliff controversy.

McDonald was appointed in March 2008 to try the case against Ratcliff after District Attorney Steve Tyler recused himself.

McDonald accepted a plea deal from Ratcliff.

Defense attorney Randy Schaffer, who represents Smith, said he saw no difference between having McDonald serve as special prosecutor instead of Clark.

"Isn't this just the flip side of the coin?" Schaffer asked. "He had just as much involvement prosecuting Ratcliff as Clark did representing his accuser."

He posed the question "If one is disqualified, why isn't the other?"

"Whether Terry McDonald has information on the case that would make him a witness, I don't know," Schaffer said. "I'm not sure what's going on, frankly."

McDonald laid out his initial steps in approaching the cases.

"After reviewing all the evidence, the first thing I'll decide is if this needs further investigation," he said. "Assuming no further investigation is needed, I'll contact the defense attorneys, sit down and have a discussion with them."

He continued, "I don't view this as an overly complicated situation. It's pretty straightforward."

McDonald, who is currently working on two capital murder cases in San Antonio, will be dividing his time between those cases and the two Victoria ones.

"I'll have to work around them," he said. "I plan to approach things fairly."

Tyler commented on his replacement and the future of the cases.

"I do know that he is a capable attorney," Tyler said. "What will be interesting to see is if a visiting judge hears this case or not. I guess that will be the next shoe that will drop."

McDonald's law career has spanned 37 years.

The Detroit native is a graduate of Notre Dame University and St. Mary's Law School.

He worked as a district judge for much of the 1990s, but now practices privately in Bexar County.

The married father of six also was the first assistant district attorney under former San Antonio district attorney Sam Millsap.

Additionally, he has taught law classes at his Texas alma mater.

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