Police chief angry over assault plea deal offered by district attorney
By BY J.R. ORTEGA - JRORTEGA@VICAD.COM
Dec. 18, 2009 at 6:18 a.m.
Victoria's police chief blasted the district attorney on Friday for offering a plea deal to a man who assaulted his officers.
"Bottom line: If you point a gun at a police officer, you should be held accountable to the maximum capacity of the law," Police Chief Bruce Ure said. "The district attorney has had no communication regarding this plea bargain."
Arturo Alvarado, 41, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He rammed a police car with his Jeep and waved a gun at three officers in March. This, just moments after he attacked his wife who worked inside Twin Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. For attacking his wife, Alvarado pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
District Attorney Steve Tyler offered Alvarado a 40-year plea agreement last month - instead of the much stiffer penalties available.
"The chief is making an allegation that we let it go cheap," Tyler said. "I ask, 'Cheap compared to what?'"
District Judge Robert Cheshire accepted the plea on Nov. 12.
The 40-year prison sentence is just, Tyler said, based on the evidence provided. The prosecutor referred to a similar 2008 case in which Thomas Marcus Mistrot was sentenced to 35 years for aggravated assault against a public servant.
Mistrot waved a gun at four police officers and pulled the trigger, but left the safety on, Tyler said. Mistrot's case presented stronger evidence than in the Alvarado case, Tyler said.
"Apparently he didn't do any research," Tyler said about Ure. "You'll find that it stands up quite well."
This is not the first time tension between the two offices became public. For months in 2007, both sides argued publicly about the number of cases Tyler declined. Tensions led to Tyler indicting four public officials, including the police chief. A judge later barred Tyler from prosecuting the officials and threw out Ure's case.
"I wouldn't know what motivated him in his decision making," Ure said, referring to the plea agreement. "It would be unfair for me to speculate. It's bewildering to us. This was a rock solid case. The video doesn't lie."
Ure played two video tapes that show Alvarado ramming his vehicle into a police car and waving a gun at officers. The ensuing investigation showed the bullet casings were indented, meaning Alvarado pulled the trigger, Ure said.
Tyler said the plea agreement had nothing to do with tensions of the past.
"Absolutely not," the district attorney said. "There is no question that Alvarado rammed the police unit three or four times. It's the most definitive violent act."
As part of the Alvarado plea agreement, Tyler dropped the gun charges. Evidence for aggravated assault with the Jeep trumped evidence linked to the gun, Tyler said.
Regarding the plea agreement, Tyler did not contact the officers, who were victims in this case. The district attorney did contact Alvarado's wife.
"She was ready to forgive him and take him back," Tyler said. "That's not unusual."
Ure denied political motives as reasons for coming forward now with this complaint. Tyler just filed to run again for office.
The police chief provided an e-mail showing officers learned of the plea deal on Thursday, weeks after it was made.
"We just learned about it," Ure said. "That's why I'm mad now."
Ure never asked to be involved in plea agreement talks, Tyler said.
"He's never expressed an interest to be at any of the pleadings or hearings," Tyler said. "We're doing what we're paid to do. He could always come by if he has a point to make."