Defense attorneys optimistic about new prosecutor

June 28, 2010 at 1:28 a.m.

Defense attorneys for two Victoria city officials indicted for perjury in 2008, say they are optimistic about the new special prosecutor who has come on board.

District Judge Stephen Williams appointed Port Lavaca attorney Jerry Clark as special prosecutor in the cases of Victoria Police Lt. Ralph Buentello and former city attorney David Atmar Smith.

"I know he has a good reputation in the legal community and I look forward to discussing the case with him," said Scot Courtney, who is representing Buentello.

Buentello and Smith, who is represented by Houston-based attorney Randy Schaffer, are fighting perjury charges stemming from the investigation of former Victoria County Sheriff Michael Ratcliff.

District Attorney Steve Tyler indicted Police Chief Bruce Ure, Mayor Will Armstrong and the two officials for interfering with the case, leaking confidential information, conspiring against him and lying under oath, all of which was dismissed except for the perjury charges.

The perjury charge against Ure was dismissed on May 11.

All the cases against Armstrong were also dismissed

Buentello and Smith's cases were put into abatement until Ure's case concluded.

Clark, who has over a dozen years of experience working as a prosecutor, seemed equally as optimistic to take on his new position.

"I'm honored that a district judge especially Judge Williams would trust me enough to appoint me to this position. I intend to do right by this position," he said.

Although there is no court-appointed deadline to make moves in the cases, Clark said he is analyzing the cases' details as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

"There's no shortcut when it comes to going through a case and making a decision," he said. "I want to do what's right and what justice commands."

As of Monday, Clark said he had not met with either defense lawyer in person.

Although they have not yet met face-to-face, both defense attorneys had positive things to say about Clark's appointment.

"The prosecutor has great discretion as far as where the case goes," said Courtney. "A new prosecutor will bring a fresh perspective to the case no matter what that perspective will be. It's rare that a new prosecutor has the same perspective as the former one."

Meanwhile, Schaffer said, "I don't think he has any dog in the fight politically speaking."

He continued, "Hopefully, Clark becomes familiar with the case and conducts whatever factual investigation he deems appropriate and he will dismiss the case."

In his opinion, Courtney said he did not think Clark's late arrival to his client's case would have a negative impact.

"I don't think it has a bearing on winning or losing a case," said Courtney. "The nuts and bolts of the case are still the same."

He added, "Our position always has been and always will be that my client is not guilty of the crime alleged."

Schaffer said he hopes his client's charges will ultimately be dismissed.

"It seems odd not to prosecute the police chief who was the target in the first place, but to prosecute the bit players who were just in the area when all this happened," said Schaffer." The quarrel is between Steve Tyler and Chief Ure. It's not fair to prosecute the other people who were just in the way."



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