Advocate editorial board opinion: Cases against city personnel have taken too long

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 22, 2010 at 6:22 a.m.

We think it's been too long for the city of Victoria cases against former city attorney David Smith and Police Lt. Ralph Buentello.

The special prosecutor in the case, Terry McDonald, had said he wanted to wrap up the cases before 2011, but that's not going to happen because now McDonald wants a special report on the cases from District Attorney Steve Tyler.

Tyler initially accused Smith and Buentello, along with Police Chief Bruce Ure and Mayor Will Armstrong, of leaking confidential information, interfering with an official case, conspiring against him and lying under oath in 2008.

But more specifically, Buentello and Smith were charged with aggravated perjury, lying to a grand jury that indicted former Sheriff Michael Ratcliff on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy while sheriff. Incidentally, McDonald was the special prosecutor in the Ratcliff case, in which he gave the former sheriff a plea deal.

Armstrong's and Ure's cases have since been dropped.

In April 2009, a district judge removed Tyler as prosecutor against Smith and Buentello because he deemed the district attorney would not be objective in the case. But it was in July 2010 that District Judge Stephen Williams appointed San Antonio's McDonald as special prosecutor in the cases, replacing Jerry Clark, who had held the position since June 2010.

At the time, McDonald said, "After reviewing all the evidence, the first thing I'll decide is if this needs further investigation. Assuming no further investigation is needed, I'll contact the defense attorneys, sit down and have a discussion with them. I don't view this as an overly complicated situation. It's pretty straightforward."

That statement by McDonald was in July. Here we are in December with the news these cases will be carried over into 2011 because McDonald wants a report from Tyler.

With all due respect, Mr. McDonald, enough time has passed to make a determination on these cases.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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