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Here's my comment that I left on Gage's blog:"Here's a comment for you Gabe....Approximately 187 reports rejected by Tyler and company but not provided to you are available at the VPD under the Open Records Act. Some of the nastier rejections are contained there-in. you blew it pal by "reviewing" only the sanitized records that Tyler gave you, because there were "too many". You started strong, but you ended with a whimper - no Pulitzer for you!"
Mr. Cobler & South Texas guy,I believe it was our DA Steve Tyler who said in an interview on KAVU that Mr. Smith pleaded the 5th during a GJ session. If I remember correctly, he comically mocked him pleading the 5th!! You might want to search the archives to verify.I wonder why it is alright for Mr. Tyler to release who said what to the Grand Jury but no one else??!! Keep up the good work VA!!
Thank you for all of the feedback. I've been away from the computer most of the afternoon waiting at the sheriff's department and the police department, where officers and civilian police academy members were anticipating more indictments. We're now hearing those indictments will be forthcoming in the morning. We'll keep you posted and update the Web as soon as we hear.
Thinksalot, I appreciate your tip about the former chief. I wasn't here then, but I'll talk with government reporter David Tewes and local editor Becky Cooper, who each have two decades' worth of community history stored in their brains. We'll be checking into this angle and many others as the story moves forward.
While racing to keep up with the news, we're having trouble keeping up with all of the online comments. If you have a specific point you think bears investigating, please call or e-mail us directly.
Chris: Thanks for the paper's reporting. I just read the VicAd' opinion of these events, and I fail to agree with your view. Likely not a big surprise. Didn't want you to get the big head over Tuesdays coverage.I appear to be one of the few posters who understand the difference between "journalism" and "opinion". And I appreciate your understanding that difference. The past days reporting clearly show you do. Thanks.
Chris, The Advocate is more than part of the story, it is a key protagonist. I'm not complaining, mind you. This is a traditional role of the media. What I am saying is that knowing your position, we readers must naturally be suspicious of the reporting as this story moves along. But you knew that. So, I question your judgement in showing your hand so soon. Was it to warn us not to trust the reporting? Unlikely. Perhaps it is an attempt to defend your involvement? Either way, I must admit that as the actual reporting goes, you are offering a pretty balanced picture so far.I would like to suggest that as part of your "investigation" you take another look at the circumstances surrounding the departure of former Chief Tim Braaten. The public discourse at the time between him and former city attorney Smith may give you insight into what's happening now. Braaten might even be willing to offer a comment or two. It's worth a try, eh?Thanks for listening.
Southtexasguy wrote that the opinion of the paper "is a slap in the face to the grand jurors who listened to all the evidence."The grand jurors didn't get to listen to ALL the evidence. The defense is not allowed to present evidence in grand jury proceedings, thus the old saw that the DA can get an indictment against a ham sandwich. Grand juries seldom return no bills when a district attorney asks for an indictment. This is the stunt that the former DA used so often in his vendettas against the fire department and other fire officials of Victoria County. He'd get an indictment, the newspaper and television news would carry the story and a person's reputation would be ruined. After the defendant spent thousands of dollars on legal fees, the DA would drop the charges, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict at trial. Texas district attorneys have tremendous power and not all of them use that power wisely.
South Texas Guy,
I asked that very about grand jury testimony to our lawyer, and she said it almost never became public. The DA, though, has the power to release information from the hearing, as she explained the process.
Mr. Cobler,The information about Mr. Smith supposedly pleading the 5th amendment may have just been a rumor. If it was just a rumor, and I repeated it here, I apologize.Do you know if GJ testmony is ever made public? If so, when?
Goliad Chica and Texas Mom,
Gracias. Our goal is to report without fear or favor. I know y'all will keep us straight if we fall off that razor's edge.
Dear South Texas Guy,
We don't know whether Mr. Smith took the Fifth during grand jury testimony. Even if we did, we could be criminally prosecuted for reporting the testimony from a grand jury proceeding. I hope such facts come out in subsequent open court proceedings, and we'll be sure to report them if they do. In my mind, secrecy invites speculation.
In terms of whether Mr. Smith should have been involved in the criminal investigation, that's clearly a central question in this story. Why was he? Do you believe him when he says he was concerned about the Ratcliff investigation and representing the interests of the city police department? We'll keep digging to try to learn the answers to these and other questions.
Regarding the editorial board's opinion about "a reasonable person," I agree that's a point worthy of much debate. Is it too early to state this opinion? That's definitely a danger whenever commenting on court cases that aren't completed. However, our editorial board decided this public issue was too important to wait to comment. I suspect the board will need to comment again as the case moves forward.
Hope that helps explain our thinking.
I think y'all are doing a marvelous job of bringing the information for us while trying to walk a razor's edge. You have taken the "good ol' boys" on - what c*jones! Keep up the good work.
Mr. Cobler,Thank you for your response. It is difficult to separate a newspaper story from an editorial opinion that appears in the same paper.If it is the editorial opinion, then, that "no reasonable person would consider this a criminal offense" how did the editorial board come to that opinion before knowing and taking into consideration what all the evidence is? I still stand by my statement that your opinion is a slap in the face to the grand jurors who listened to all of the evidence.As far as a news story goes, may I suggest that one? Please let your reader know why City Attorney Smith was involved in a criminal investigation of a person who was not a city employee. Also, didn't I read previously (months ago) that Smith plead the 5th amendment several times before the grand jury? Or was that simply a rumor? Since GJ testomony is secret, I'm not sure how that would have been known. I know that, if true, that in itself, does not prove anything but it certainly raises questions in the minds of the public. And this comes from a man who is still employed by the City of Victoria.Thank you.
We had a technical glitch with the editorial board's opinion posting last night. It is online now. Here's a link for others who might not have read it yet.
The distinction to make here is between the news coverage and the editorial board's opinion. News reporters have nothing to do with our editorial board or its opinions expressed on the Viewpoints page. We try hard to report all sides in any news story. For example, in today's interview with Police Chief Bruce Ure's lawyer, we naturally went to District Attorney Stephen Tyler for a response. That's what we mean by balance in a news story.
An editorial is, by definition, meant to contain opinions and try to persuade the reader. In a previous post about election endorsements, I tried to explain a bit about how an editorial board works and why. I encourage anyone who wants to know more about this board to call to arrange a visit to our weekly meetings on Thursday afternoons.
I understand why you'd be suspicious of the newspaper's ability to offer fair and balanced coverage when its editorial board clearly has taken a position. The best response I can give you is that we try to be transparent about what we're doing and to let you judge for yourself and to offer your own opinions.
I respect that different people can look at the same set of facts and reach varying conclusions. Our headline on today's opinion stated, "DA Tyler has a great deal to prove." If he indeed proves all of the points outlined in the editorial, I expect our editorial board will offer a new opinion. I hope all of us keep our opinions open to change as new facts emerge.
I know you're a tough critic, so I appreciate even more your words now.
Well job done Chris!
Mr. Cobler,I wanted to respond to today's editorial, but apparently it has not yet been posted to the web. In an earlier blog, ("Why You Should Care About A Free Press") you stated " We will continue to fight to stay out of the story and to cover it fairly, completely and accurately". Yet, with today's editorial, you don't do that.Comments like "At best, Victoria District Attorney is guilty of letting his ego run wild"; "No reasonable person would consider this a criminal offense"; "The message the DA is sending is that he will go after anyone who criticizes his office. He will even prosecute whistle blowers"; "Sadly, the district attorney seems blinded by his own self-righteousness" don't exactly sound fair, complete and accurate to me.Please answer something for me. Why was the City Attorney involved in a criminal investigation at all? Does that fall within the purview of his responsibilities? Ratcliff was not even a city employee. Does the City Attorney regularly get involved in the criminal investigations of all citizens in our community? If he does not, why was he involved this time? Did it not seem strange to you to have the City Attorney talking to the Advocate about a criminal matter, not involving a city employee?The Advocate, by today's editorial, has clearly made their position known. You have taken sides on this issue. I hope that, should Ure and Smith be convicted of any of the accusation against them, the Advocate will acknowledge their error and apologize to Mr. Tyler.Finally, your comment that "no reasonable person" would consider this a criminal offense, is a slap in the face to to the 12 grand jurors that issued the indictment. I believe you owe them an immediate apology. These men and women performed their civic duty, spent hours and hours of their time listening to witnesses, going over testimony. After do so, they came to the conclusion that criminal offenses HAD occurred. YOU HAVE NOT NOT BEEN PRIVY TO EVERYTHING THE GRAND JURY HEARD. Why are you calling them unreasonable? Is that being fair?The grand jury performed their duty. It will be the duty of a different 12 men and women AFTER CONSIDERING ALL OF THE EVIDENCE PROVIDED TO THEM to determine innocence or guilt. It is not up to the Advocate to pronounce that "no reasonable person" would consider this a criminal offense...the day after the individuals are indicted...without knowing what evidence there is. I do not believe that is being fair and impartial.A Grand Jury meets every other week here in Victoria County, from what I have been told. At the conclusion of each meeting, indictments are usually issued. Why did the Advocate not take issue with any those indictments? You know about as much about the cases, as far as the evidence that was presented, than you do in this case. Is Mr. Tyler's ego at issue with those indictments as well? Would "no reasonable person" consider criminal offenses to have occurred in those cases either?To me, you are not "fighting to stay out of the story" as you promised. You came down squarely on one side of the issue. And in doing so, you have have become no better source of news than the unregulated, free-for-all discussion forums.
Chris: As you have read, I have been a critic of the Advocate in the past. With that being said, your point of last night online converstaion is right on point. Even though the Advocate played a role in the story, the paper was not the focus of the debated points. Congrats on handling a difficult story as professional journalists. It is much appreciated.