Special prosecutor named in remaining cases against indicted city officials

Becky Cooper By Becky Cooper

June 25, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.

A special prosecutor has been appointed to try the remaining two cases of Victoria city officials indicted in 2008 by the district attorney.

On Monday, district Judge Stephen Williams signed an order appointing Port Lavaca private practice attorney Jerry Clark to take over the cases.

Clark is a former assistant district attorney in Calhoun, Aransas and San Patricio counties.

Williams ruled in April 2009 that district attorney Steve Tyler could not be a prosecutor and victim in the case against Police Chief Bruce Ure.

He also ruled Tyler could not prosecute the remaining cases against police Lt. Ralph Buentello and former city attorney David Atmar Smith. They are charged with perjury.

Tyler appealed the ruling, but his attorney failed to file briefings and the appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution on May 11.

The perjury charge against Ure was dismissed at that time.

Also charged in 2008 was Mayor Will Armstrong. Charges against him were also dropped.

The charges stemmed from the investigation of former Victoria County Sheriff Michael Ratcliff. Tyler, in part, contends the officials interfered with the case, leaked confidential information, conspired against him and lied under oath.

Many of the original indictment counts were later dismissed, leaving only the perjury charges.

Clark was the chief assistant prosecutor under district attorney Dan Heard in Calhoun County for five years before entering private practice.

Clark said he learned Thursday he has been appointed to the job. He plans to begin working on the cases beginning next week.

"I really truly have a clean slate going into this. I will evaluate it from the ground level and evaluate the witnesses," he said. He said he has read about the cases some, but really doesn't know what happened.

He added that Williams, who talked to him about the appointment, has not given him any deadlines for hearings.

"I will come in and analyze the cases and do what I think is right," he said "I am excited and honored the judge chose me. The judge has put his faith in me and I will do what I think is right."

The Refugio native is a 1992 graduate of South Texas College of Law and became a licensed attorney the same year.

He was also a prosecutor under former district attorney Jack Whitlow in Calhoun Countty from 1993-98 and under Tom Bridges in Sinton from 1998-2000.

He recently resigned as tennis coach at St. Joseph High School in Victoria.



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