Special prosecutor still awaiting report from DA Tyler

March 28, 2011 at 8:05 p.m.
Updated March 27, 2011 at 10:28 p.m.

An inability to obtain a summary report from Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler continues to stall decisions on the cases against Victoria Police Lt. Ralph Buentello and former city attorney David Atmar Smith.

Terry McDonald, the San Antonio attorney who was named special prosecutor in the cases in July, said he still is waiting on Tyler to provide him with a summary report of how Smith and Buentello's actions affected his 2008 investigation of former Victoria County Sheriff Michael Ratcliff for sexual abuse.

"I haven't heard from him," said McDonald. "If he felt they lied to the grand jury, I'd like him to explain to me how that was material to the investigation."

McDonald said he has called Tyler four times requesting the report.

Calls by the Advocate made to Tyler Monday afternoon were not returned.

In December, when McDonald relayed the news that a decision on the cases would not come before the year's end, McDonald said Tyler told him he was working on a capital murder case that would not be finished before January.

A grand jury indicted Police Chief Bruce Ure, Mayor Will Armstrong and the two officials on perjury charges stemming from the Ratcliff investigation.

The cases against Armstrong and Ure were dismissed.

To prove aggravated perjury, McDonald said Tyler would have to prove there was an intentional misstatement of facts, which by itself is a misdemeanor, and show beyond a reasonable doubt that it was material to the official proceedings.

At this point, McDonald said he has reviewed the amended indictments of Smith and Buentello as well as the grand jury transcripts.

The delayed decision on the cases has displeased the defendants' attorneys.

"Anybody under indictment, much less a lawyer, would like to resolve the case and not have it just hanging on," said attorney Randy Schaffer, who represents Smith. "It seems to me that evidence would have been obtained and reviewed by now."

He continued, "This thing needs to be resolved one way or the other."

"Mr. McDonald has been trying to review the case and trying to understand the case. I find it shocking that Mr. Tyler has not provided him with everything," said attorney Scot Courtney, who represents Buentello. "Here it is almost April and Mr. McDonald is still waiting on Mr. Tyler to get him materials and information."

Although McDonald previously said he needs to see Tyler's report before he can make a final decision, a motion to dismiss could be forthcoming.

"I'm in limbo," said McDonald. "If I don't hear back from Tyler, my decision is fairly clear."

A status conference is tentatively scheduled for the cases on April 15.



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