County judge serves county attorney with court order
by Joe Baker
Sep 13, 2012 | 2843 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KARNES CITY – A Karnes County deputy served what is known as an “order to show cause” last week to County Attorney Robert Busselman as a result of what County Judge Barbara Shaw said was the failure of his office to appear at a criminal trial set for Sept. 5.

The order, issued by Judge Shaw, was filed Sept. 6 and served that same afternoon to Busselman at his residence in Karnes City.

The order requires Busselman to appear before the Karnes County Court at 10 a.m. on Sept. 13 to show cause why he failed to abide by an order imposed on him June 6 requiring his attendance in court.

The order warns that failure to appear on Sept. 13 will result in a finding of contempt with a possible $100 file and/or three-day sentence in jail.

Shaw explained the circumstances that led up to her decision to issue the order.

A jury trial was set to take place Sept. 5 for cases involving assault and making a terroristic threat.

“Nobody from the prosecutor’s office showed up,” Shaw said, noting that neither Busselman or Assistant County Attorney Betty Yarter appeared in court that morning.

“I was left sitting there looking at a bunch of jurors,” Shaw said. “They were just kind of staring at me – it was very uncomfortable.”

“We had set this court date a while back,” Shaw said, noting that Busselman had been emailed a reminder, as well.

The cases were initially set for June 6, Shaw explained, but had to be reset to a later date for a number of reasons.

“Betty Yarter told me that we no longer needed a jury trial,” Shaw said, explaining that her understanding was that a plea arrangement had been reached between the prosecutor and the defense. As a result, Shaw posted notes on the doors of the juvenile probation building that day letting prospective jurors know that their services would not be needed.

However, when the defense attorney arrived, she told Shaw that no plea arrangement had been made and she was not happy about the fact that the jury had been dismissed.

Witnesses were also not available, Shaw said, meaning that the case would have had to be reset or dismissed.

Court records show that the parties all agreed to meet for a jury trial beginning Sept. 5.

When court convened Sept. 5, the judge, defense attorney and jurors waited for about 20 minutes. When no one from the county attorney’s office arrived, the defense attorney then asked the court to dismiss the cases because the prosecution had not been ready on June 6 and then also failed to appear on Sept. 5.

Shaw granted the defense attorney’s motion, dismissing the cases.

“I really had no choice but to move in her favor,” Shaw said.

Shaw said she hadn’t spoken to either Busselman or Yarter regarding the matter since Sept. 5.

“A ‘show cause’ order is simply issued when something happens, and you are looking to see why the court order was not followed,” Shaw said, explaining that the order gives the county attorney the opportunity to appear before the court explaining the absence.

Shaw said the absence of a prosecutor, caused an unnecessary expense for the county, as well as an embarrassment.

“I don’t know where the confusion could have come in,” Shaw said. “It’s not my job to keep the prosecutor’s calendar. Its his job.”

Shaw said the absence of a prosecutor in court that day created a very frustrating situation, for all involved.

The Karnes Countywide reached out to County Attorney Robert Busselman for comment Monday, but messages left were not immediately returned.

Assistant County Attorney Betty Yarter was able to comment, however, and accepted responsibility for not appearing in court on Sept. 5.

Yarter said the absence was due to an error in getting the court date correctly recorded on the calendar. Yarter said she failed to let the county attorney office secretary know about the Sept. 5 court date so that it could be listed on the calendar.

“We were both available, but nobody bothered to call us,” Yarter said.

Yarter said that county court, which usually takes place in the juvenile probation building, was moved to the new county annex building on Sept. 5, adding to the confusion.

“It’s my mistake,” Yarter said. “I blame myself for not making sure it was calendered.”

The ‘order to show cause’ served on the county attorney, was a highly unusual action by the court, Yarter said, adding that it may have been motivated by a personal conflict that has emerged recently between the county judge and the county attorney.

“It’s highly retaliatory,” Yarter said, describing the order.

“The reality is that she should be coming after me,” Yarter said. “But she’s not. She’s choosing to go after Bob. That way, she can make sure... She wants to get rid of Bob.”
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