Rulings on Tyler's appeal, petitions not expected any time soon
July 28, 2009 at 2:28 a.m.
Updated July 30, 2009 at 2:30 a.m.
WHAT'S HAPPENED SO FAR
Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure is accused of lying to the grand jury that investigated whether former Sheriff Michael Ratcliff sexually assaulted a teenage boy.
Police Lt. Ralph Buentello and former city attorney David Smith are also charged with aggravated perjury.
A grand jury indicted the three men and Mayor Will Armstrong on multiple counts last year, accusing them of plotting to interfere with the Ratcliff investigation. The city officials maintain they were concerned the investigation was mishandled and that District Attorney Stephen Tyler's prosecution of them is retaliatory.
Judge Stephen Williams dismissed the case against Ure on April 30 and barred Tyler and his office from prosecuting Smith or Buentello. Williams has not appointed a new prosecutor for those cases.
All charges against Armstrong were dropped. The only charge that remains against Smith and Buentello is an aggravated perjury charge.
Ratcliff was Tyler's chief of staff in October 2007 when he was indicted on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy while sheriff. Ratcliff pleaded guilty to aggravated perjury in exchange for 10 years probation.
Stephen Tyler's work to undo a district judge's rulings could stretch into December and maybe beyond, the district attorney said this week.
Tyler filed a notice of appeal in May, but the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas has yet to hear arguments. The court awaits evidence, briefs and responses to filings - normal steps in the process.
Tyler aims to appeal Judge Stephen Williams' April decision to dismiss the aggravated perjury case against Police Chief Bruce Ure.
Tyler also petitions for the higher court to overturn Williams' decisions to:
Seal portions of the case.
Quash grand jury subpoenas served to city employees.
Disqualify Tyler from prosecuting other city employees linked to the Ure case.
"If the mandamus and appeals process was, say, eight steps, we're at step two," Tyler said, generalizing the case's status. "There's a lot in front of us."
The appeal and each petition are separate legal items with varying timelines. Progress thus far on each item, then, also varies.
The appeal, for example, is partially filed. Briefs for two of the petitions have yet to be filed. Tyler can file the needed paperwork once the appeals court receives additional evidence held by the district court, he said.
A court reporter was expected this week to provide that remaining evidence.
Recent case actions include:
July 7: Tyler filed his petition to overturn Williams' ruling.
July 8: The appeals court entered an order.
July 22: The city of Victoria filed its response to Tyler.
Because Williams sealed portions of the case before it went to the appeals court, the July filings remain closed to the public, an appeals court clerk said.
"I would take it Judge Williams thought it best to seal those documents," Tyler said. "We feel differently."
George Hyde, who represents the city of Victoria, declined comment this week.
Williams said he can't discuss the case.
Tyler took his fight to an appeals court because he thinks Williams overstepped his legal bounds in April, the district attorney said.
Once the court receives the balance of evidence, Tyler next plans to file his appeal brief, give oral arguments in his petition to unseal evidence and file briefs for the other two petitions.
While Tyler can't know for certain, he said his case should be heard in court by year's end.
"I would anticipate before next summer," Tyler said. "I would think probably this winter."