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-“”.”..,041061.K.1416011111161604C.+40106.44NWS 4411111004,_.**404146.6440:44iF.A0Moi. As it was, he did his best to put it in simple terms of an obligation to follow the law in arriving at a verdict. He reminded the nine women and three men that they had to decide the warrant was worth $50 or more at the time it was taken. He compared it co a piece of glass sold as a diamond, to a stolen hot check. He told them the warrant the particular warrant in question, the warrant named in the indictment, the only warrant David Ratliff was charged with stealing, etc. was “valueless except to be used to steal money from somebody else, or to cheat somebody else. This thing had no value at the time it was taken.” Not the kind of argument that would fire up a jury to acquit a poor wronged defendant. Smith simply started from a better, a more jes’-plain-common-sense-folks position. Not that you have to be country or stupid or both to be swayed by Smith, 8 The Texas Observer Bookkeeping & Tax Service 503 WEST 15TH, AUSTIN 78701 CO OFFICE HOURS: 9 A.M. TO 1 P.M. AND BY APPOINTMENT ANYTIME Personal Service Quality Insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY INSURANCE & REAL ESTATE 808A E. 46th, Austin, Texas 465-6577 IDA PRESS 901 W 24th St Austin Multi copy service. Call 477-3641 4w’ veum. …kmarastasmm, though when he gets his drawl cranked up it drips courthouse square and feed store. It’s just that well, who’re you gonna believe when it comes to the value of a state warrant, a guy who gets one in an envelope once a month or a guy who reads about ’em in books? Especially when the envelope guy can milk that belief factor for 20 minutes and never sound contrived. Smith started right in with a slip of the tongue, “accidentally” calling the warrant a check and then explaining, “Anything I can cash at the bank I consider a check.” That was it, really, that was all he had to say. The rest the adding up of all the money Ratliff gained from his scheme, the pointing at the defendant while accusing him of being not only a “common thief” but an income tax evader as well, the backhand compliment to Maloney for being a good enough lawyer to come up with some kind of smokescreen was pure gravy. ON THE following day the jury heard 71 witnesses and deliberated for over five hours before sentencing Ratliff to a 10-year probated sentence. The witnesses offered to help Ratliff in any way possible if probation were granted. Most were not cross-examined by Smith. The 69th and 70th, Ratliff’s personal physician and a psychiatrist, told the court that the defendant suffered from “psychotic suicidal depression.” The 71st, Ms. Ratliff, testified to her husband’s desire to make reparation. In final argument Maloney called his client “a vegetable,” “fallen from the heights” and “unable to help himself.” Smith responded by again comparing Ratliff to a common thief. He said the offense was deliberate and motivated by greed. He concluded that Ratliff deserved 10 years in prison, but then admitted, “I don’t know who you ought to send to the penitentiary. I don’t know if you should only send the blacks, the chicanos, the poor whites.” One of the terms of Ratliff’s probation is that he return to the state more than $25,000, the amount Texas has paid to Virginia Moser and seven other persons, relatives and non-workers, whom Ratliff placed on the payrolls. The possibility of non-payment and resulting imprisonment is, Smith said, “an open legal question.” Ratliff had to be buttressed by his attorneys when he stood before the bench to hear the sentence read. He nearly collapsed as the clerk was reading it. But he was in obvious high spirits a short time later, accepting congratulations. He had seemed calm through most of the proceedings, though several times he slumped farther into his chair, hiding his eyes. Ratliff looks like the guy Central Casting sent over to play the state senator. His hair is white and thinning over a profile like Mt. Rushmore’s Greatest Hits. His other profile, his low one as a senator, is just as noteworthy. In fact, the word most likely to pop up in a conversation about Ratliff, aside from “distinguished-looking,” is “nonentity.” He owns a solidly conservative voting record and a nine-term reputation for reserve. He took over the lieutenant governor’s chair one day and people rushed into the chamber just to see if he could actually talk. He has been known to look around for advice on complicated votes and to look to those well-dressed gents in the gallery on extra complicated ones. It’s tempting, especially after seeing him in the context of his trial, to dismiss Ratliff as a comic figure, a distinguished-looking dummy. But there is more to him. In many ways he represented his district, right down to being a teetotaller in a dry county. He was a withdrawn man, very much a loner. One of the people he relied on for guidance was Ben Barnes, and when the grand jury got warmed up Barnes refused to talk to him. Instead, Barnes held a press conference to suggest his resignation. The fact that Ratliff looks so much like what he is adds irony to his situation, but it also suggests a way of understanding the man. He lived and worked in the Senate the way it is. Complete with imposing profile and miserable salary and the necessity for accommodating himself to problems of money and power every day. Insulated by 20 years of watching people make those accommodations, not all of them as pure as Caesar’s wife. He got into financial trouble and got caught in a grubby little crime trying to get out of it. So now he’s a convicted felon. But it didn’t just happen. 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