San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 13th, 2012
Uncovered documents cast doubt on Ratliff’s assault denial

UPDATED 4:52 p.m. APRIL 13: Ratliff denied the reborn allegations and says results of a 1989 polygraph test prove he didn’t beat his ex-wife, Amarillo physician Ann Harral. Story here.


Confronted during a debate in October 2010 with the explosive allegation that he had seriously injured his ex-wife during an attack more than 20 years ago, then-Sheriff Tommy Ratliff called the claim “absolutely a full-blown lie” and said the accuser should be ashamed.

In the days after Ratliff’s denunciation, the San Marcos Mercury found a friend of Ratliff’s former wife who said Ratliff, then a Texas Ranger stationed in the Panhandle town of Pampa, broke his spouse’s collar bone and caused a concussion when he picked her up and slammed her against the floor during an argument in September 1988.

Ratliff’s former supervisor, retired Rangers chief Bruce Casteel, meanwhile, told the Austin American Statesman that Ratliff had been investigated for assaulting Harral but that the investigation was dropped when Harral changed her story after a few weeks.

Doubling down on his denial, Ratliff called on his opponent to apologize and issued a statement on county letterhead that said, “This incident did not happen and is nothing but pure fabrication.”

Without more proof of the allegations against Ratliff, the bombshell declaration never detonated; Ratliff lost the election to Gary Cutler in November 2010 but so did every Democrat on the ballot here. Ratliff didn’t lose by a particularly wide margin so it was hard to tell if the domestic abuse allegation played a role in his undoing. He has since switched parties and is  running currently as a Republican against Cutler in the May 29 party primary election.

Now internal Texas Department of Public Safety documents, obtained this week by the Mercury, suggest that Ratliff’s chain of command thought Harral’s account, and those of other contemporary witnesses, were credible enough that they transferred the Ranger to desk duty in Austin, put him on disciplinary probation and upheld the punishment against his appeal.

In one internal memo dated December 16, 1988, Casteel wrote Ratliff that, “You fail to present evidence to convince me that the injuries caused to your wife were not committed by you.” And upholding his discipline two months later, DPS’s then-director Joe Milner writes, “I have decided there is no compelling reason for me to overturn the classification of ‘sustained.'”

After initially denying to Casteel and a DPS sergeant that he had thrown Harral to the floor, Ratliff told them later the same day that “he realized that what he had done to Ann was wrong and whatever we needed to do, just go ahead,” Casteel wrote in a summary of his investigation dated October 10, 1988.

“The relationship that a Ranger has with the law enforcement community and other people that he works with must be untarnished for the Ranger to be effective in his duty station,” Casteel wrote in a memo recommending Ratliff’s transfer to Austin. “Given this situation, the writer is convinced that Ranger Ratliff’s reputation has been severely damaged and he cannot effectively perform the duties of a Texas Ranger in Pampa, Texas. I have a belief that his actions have brought discredit to the Department of Public Safety.”

Ratliff did not return a phone call today from the Mercury seeking comment for this story.

According to handwritten statement Harral gave investigators, the argument that left her injured started days earlier when Ratliff became angry that he had not been invited to lunch with Harral and Sharon Story, whose husband Larry had been Ratliff’s supervisor as a state trooper. The next day, after another argument, Harral left town and stayed the night at a hotel to get away from Ratliff and the argument.

When she returned the following afternoon, Ratliff was furious that she had been gone overnight and accused her of having an affair, Harral told investigators.

“Tommy grabbed me, picking me up off the floor and throwing me to the ground. I landed on my left hip and left shoulder, strking the left parital region of my head on the floor. I ‘saw stars,’ so to speak,” Harral, a physician, wrote in her statement. She fled to her medical practice and locked herself inside before visiting a friend later and recounting the story.

The next day she was vomiting and unable to see patients. She went to the hospital, where she was treated by an emergency room doctor for what she told him was a horseback riding injury, according to witness statements included in the DPS documents. They took X-rays that showed she had a fractured clavicle and mild concussion, the statements say.

After the allegations were made in October 2010, the Mercury requested Ratliff’s personnel files under the Texas Public Information Act but was rebuffed by a DPS attorney who invoked a section of the states’ local government code that says “the personnel records of a commissioned officer of the department may not be disclosed or otherwise made available to the public.”

The documents arrived unexpectedly by U.S. mail in an envelope without a return address and a postmark smudged so badly it can’t be read. The letter inside says the documents were sent by a domestic abuse victim who doesn’t want to see Ratliff return to the sheriff’s office.

Watch Ratliff and Cutler debate here:

Ratliff is confronted with domestic abuse allegations by Wally Kinney, a Hays County Republican and Cutler supporter, at 7:09.

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18 thoughts on “Uncovered documents cast doubt on Ratliff’s assault denial

  1. If you or I did this, we’d end up in jail for assault, maybe even aggravated assault. What’s more disconcerting: that he brutally assaulted his wife (after having done it once before) and then categorically denies it despite the overwhelming evidence against him, OR that the Texas DPS swept it under the rug and allowed him to continue to be a Ranger? The peace officers had a duty to make an arrest, but they didn’t because it was one of their own. He should have been terminated, at minimum.

    If you batter your wife, you should be arrested. Family violence is a crime of moral turpitude. You can’t be a cop. You can’t possess firearms or ammunition.

    He’d be better off admitting it, saying he’s a changed man after all these years, and asking for forgiveness. Completely lying about it, even after 25 years, shows that he is still untrustworthy. Mr. Ratliff has no business being a peace officer, much less the Sheriff of Hays County.

  2. Well, it seems Mr. Ratliff has put a stop to these alligations. Can we focus on the issues now? What do you think about that bulletproof wall Cutler had installed around his office? I hear it cost over 100k!

  3. Oh dear.

    Not sure how this doesn’t just scream ‘unqualified’. Not only did this man hire an outsider into the sheriffs department that has terrible credibility issues regarding his past behavior involving evidence, he now seems to have been caught red handed in a lie.

    I can understand supporting and backing someone you believe to be qualified to be sheriff because of friendship, but blind loyalty is another thing.

    This should pretty much be a no-brainer. This man not only did what he was accused of but so much as admitted it in the documents. Even in his appeal his commanders saw it fit to sustain the allegation and suspend him.

    The lights have come on and it’s closing time at the bar. With that in your history you have no business being a peace officer, let alone sheriff.

    To all those supporters out there, you need now ask yourself this simple question. What does Hays County look like with a former Ranger who has a clear past involving family violence (CRIME) and was recommended by his superiors to be psychologically evaluated to be their elected sheriff?

    Seems pretty simple to me. Oh and seriously, ‘Real Conservative’? Didn’t he switch from the Democrat party? Not making the connection there but whatever.

  4. @billy78640. “Well, it seems Mr. Ratliff has put a stop to these alligations. Can we focus on the issues now? What do you think about that bulletproof wall Cutler had installed around his office? I hear it cost over 100k!”

    Put a stop to what? Have you read the questions from the lie detector test? Those questions are a joke!!! No comparison between the DPS documents and the third party polygraph.

    “I (Sgt Weathers) received a phone call from Ranger Ratliff. Ranger Ratliff stated that he realized that what he had done to Ann was wrong and whatever we needed to do to just go ahead.” Sounds like an admission to me. His former DPS sergeant said he was aware of the bad temper and the sergeant’s wife says she was told ol’ Tommy slapped Ann previously.

    Consultation with DPS legal generated an agreement to suspend pending a psychiatric evaluation. Included in the personnel complaint along with DPS violations is reference to the penal code for assault, last time I checked a crime.

    Not only was he found not fit to continue his duty as a Ranger, laughably only in Pampa, but that he also brought discredit to the Rangers.

    And you seriously think that a four question polygraph that only asked very generic questions erases the documentation? My friend this is an ‘issue’ unlike your assertion based on what you heard about bullet proof walls around his Cutler’s office and it costing 100k. If this is true you’d think you would be able to provide documentation. No way an expenditure like that could be just written off like a white Dodge pickup with all the bells and whistles.

  5. @ Connor… The questions asked during the polygraph by standard are very broad to capture any dishonesty from all angles. Ratliff said it best, The fact that he was never indicted, arrested and continued his career as a TEXAS RANGER for 21 years further proves that he’s innocent of the alligations! The the Mercury receiving those documents under shady circumstances should also discredit the alligations. Let’s focus on Cutler (and Capt. Davenport) walking a thin line on OFFICIAL OPPRESSION by asking businesses to remove Ratliff’s campaign signs.

  6. Billy you need to get the whole story on the sign issue. They didn’t muscle anybody to take a sign down, they asked to put a sign up as well. I hope you don’t believe eveything from the Roundup or Frank Morgan.

    As for the bulletproofing, yes the bonding and lobby areas are in the process of being “bullet proofed” for the protecting of the employees and the facility, cause we have all scene the stories of attacks on governement facilities and jails. Oh yeah and it is a jail, correctional facility, big house, whatever you want to call it, don’t you think security and protection is important. Also, the walls that are being upgaded don’t even attach to Sheriff Cutler’s Office itselfs, they protect an employee area that housing about 30 staff memebers, half od which are civilian and unarmed. The other portion is bonding area and window, where eveybody comes in and makes contact with the department. Oh yeah and the money for this is savings that has come from Cutler reducing energy costs and operations costs at the jail.

    There is no way that we need a wife beating liar in office again, he has already be beat once and is now running on a different party cause he lied about being a democrat to get appointed or is lying about being a republican now. Either way he is a liar.

    Oh yeah and OFFICAL OPPRESSION is only when you use your office to influence person gain. Asking to hang campign signs, off duty is not OFFICAL OPRESSION.

    One last thing….Ratliff purchased a $41,000 truck with departmental money for him to drive, take his kids to and from school, campign out of, and who knows what else. Sounds like and ego issue and nurmerous ethical issues.

    Get your facts straight and get a clue….Ratliff is a crook, criminal, and liar.

  7. @billy78640

    The polygraph questions were not focused on the acts. The bought and paid for; third party polygraph proves nothing other then he didn’t lie when he admitted he did it. If this was a DPS polygraph, focused on the acts themselves and he passed, I’d probably have some doubt as well. This one was a joke and frankly is irrelevant.

    The fact that he continued as a Ranger is a black eye on the Rangers and has nothing to do with whether or not he did it. In fact if you read ALL the documents he had several issues involving his bad temper and complaints over his fabulous career. Some of his temper flare ups while sheriff at a soccer game and a school.

    You speak of Official Oppression? Have you read the charge? Look at the complaint involving Mr. Barry where he insisted a Trooper file charges against a citizen and then later admit he didn’t actually see the violations. That IS Official Oppression.

    How the documents were received means nothing. The fact is they were received and they prove two things. TR’s temper causes him to make bad decisions that adversely affect others and that he lied to the voters when he was the sitting sheriff.

    You’d think after all the rope he was given over his career he would have extended that to others. Instead he abruptly fired a deputy for use of force that when reviewed by an expert in the field was shown to be justified. Proves he’ll sacrifice others for political expediency.

    He’s bad for Hays County and will ruin the reputation of this County.

  8. Was Tommy Ratliff ever elected as a sheriff in Hays County? No

    Was Tommy Ratliff an effective leader as the sheriff of Hays County? No

    Has Tommy Ratliff ever held any supervisory position, other than the time he spent as an appointed sheriff? No

    Is Tommy Ratliff a liar and a woman brutalizer? Yes

    Did Tommy Ratliff squander hundreds of thousands of Hays County Taxpayers dollars on a shiny new pickup truck and relocating inmates to Guadalupe County? Yes

    Is Tommy Ratliff a dictator who would rather be feared than respected? Yes

    Is Tommy Ratliff a Republican or a Democrat? Who knows?

    Did Tommy Ratliff pay for a polygraph exam? Yes

    Did Tommy Ratliff appoint a department head for the SOs Criminal Investigations Division who had a criminal past and compromised integrity? Yes

    Is Tommy Ratliff’s temper so bad that it gets him removed from children sporting events? Yes

    Was Tommy Ratliff ever supported or endorsed by any of the associations within the SO during his previous campaign? No

    Has Tommy Ratliff been endorsed by any of the law enforcement associations within Hays County during this current election? No

    Did Tommy Ratliff support his employees on their venture for collective bargaining? No

    Did Tommy Ratliff demote and fire employees at the SO for absolutely no reason? Yes

    Did Tommy Ratliff make a demand in his first sergeants meeting, stating, “You will be loyal to me. If you don’t like it there’s the door.” Yes

    Did Tommy Ratliff extend that same loyalty back to the SO employees while he was sheriff? No

    Tommy Ratliff for sheriff? Hopefully never again

  9. Oh how the truths are starting to flow. The flood gates are opened and the real story is coming out. Unfortunately TR didn’t get the message when he failed to get elected last time. This is an ego trip now and nothing more.

    El Duce the facts lay out tell a frightening story for the employees and the citizens if he is put in office. I just hope my fellow citizens are reading this and taking it in. He wasn’t wanted as an appointed sheriff and he’s certainly not wanted as an elected one.

    How in the world can TR face the debate in May at the LWV’s? Arrogance that’s how. Do the county a favor, step aside.

  10. Is it possible to not have a sheriff? For four years, our sheriff and our sheriff’s political race has been nothing short of an embarrassment. The most unseasoned of political operatives pretending to be Karl Rove, signs all over creation, and the most flawed, ego-driven candidates this side of Mariposa County. The jail is falling down, the cops are arrested too often to feel comfortable and we are arguing about domestic abuse from 30 years ago in a political primary in which one candidate shouldn’t even appear. Enough — all of you go away and we will look after ourselves.

  11. I get really frustrated with people who think they know what they are talking about, but don’t, and do harm in the process. So let’s start with the polygraph. Have any of you ever taken one? I have. Some of the work I have done has been very sensitive and a polygraph was required for hire. They ask way more than four questions. There is a baseline set, pertinent questions are asked more than once and in different ways. They are hard to beat and are admissible in a court of law. The letter that the polygrapher submitted stated that the listed questions were the pertinent questions to the issue. Any legal reviewer of that letter would have known that a lot more was involved, but would only be interested in the pertinent questions. Also, not just anyone can administer a polygraph. You have to be trained and credentialed.
    There is no way any officer in any branch could have stayed on duty if they had a temper that caused harm. This allegation was never proven. Mrs. Ratliff changed her story multiple times and was considered an unreliable witness/complainant.This included full recant.
    I point blank asked TR why he ran as a Democrat last time. Maybe some of you should do the same. A simple political deal which he openly shared, and I will leave it to him to share with all. I frankly see no reason for any political party affiliation for this position. The law is the law no matter how conservative or liberal you may be. Sheriffs do not set any policy outside of the SO, so political convictions have very little opportunity to come into play in this position.
    Now, about that truck some of you are yammering about. NO taxpayer money was spent on it. It was a used truck and money from DRUG RAIDS was used for its purchase. I think I heard that another officer is now driving it. And are you telling me that Cutler NEVER drives his official vehicle for any reason but business? Get Real!!!!
    SO now I ask how many other SOs have bulletproof walls and glass in their offices? I have heard “none”. But I am going to find that out for myself.
    And about EGO—-PLEASE go look at the special lighted sign that Cutler has installed AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE. It’s his name in lights with added drapes to block out enough light to make it better seen. I am still tracking down the cost of that, but I’ve heard it referred to as the Bat Light.
    And those endorsements for Cutler….they were made by individuals without the full body of their corp participating. So much for democracy and a meaningful endorsement.
    Have any of you actually met or even sit and talked with Tommy Ratliff? How many of you attended that Wimberley debate? I was there and I have asked questions of TR in person. You are trying to make a monster out of a man who is so honest and nice, it is hard to believe that he is in law enforcement.
    Since most of you seem so focused on TR’s personal life, I would suggest that you spend a little time finding out some personal things about Cutler, like the relationship he has with HIS wife.
    I would also suggest some caution in your accusations. There’s this thing called slander and liable.
    Oh, just one other question—-who/where did the info come from as to Ratliff’s actions with his officer’s when he was sheriff? According to a family member of a current officer, who spoke directly to me, there was a great deal of respect for Ratliff when he was in command. They did not say the same for Cutler.

  12. @integrity

    What court are you talking about regarding the polygraph? So you are one of those “trained and credentialed” guys or is this also something you’ve been told is the case. The questions were softballs and Charles Mason likely could have knocked them out of the park.

    Where are you getting the changed story, TR tell you that? It’s not just his ex-wife that spoke of his temper. His former supervisor and clearly the complaints showed this was a problem. Where is this recant you speak of, certainly didn’t see it in the documents posted. Did TR tell you that to?

    Maybe you should read the complaint from Mr. Barry. Did you ask TR how he felt comfortable enough to tell a Trooper to file charges on someone that he admitted later he never observed? That is Official Oppression.

    How about the retired DPS employee that complained saying he felt for his safety when TR confronted him about a warrant. How about this DPS employee not wanting to air dirty laundry. Might that explain how he kept his job?

    The Republican/Democrat thing is a joke. It’s not about party it’s about standing for something and using a title for political expediency. Character I believe it’s called.

    As far as the endorsements, were you there? Do you know the rules? There was a quorum present and that is all that is required. So are you saying no election or vote is valid unless all eligible voters cast a vote? If that’s the case your democracy would stall.

    As far as the truck. Spending 40k on a vehicle the SO did not need is the point, regardless where the funds came from. That 40k could have been better spent on equipment his people could have used. Ego is what helped pay for that truck, because there is no other good reason for it.

    Have you ever worked for him? What respect and from who I’d love to know are you talking about. The place was miserable during his time. You still think he’s honest and nice because you’ve not crossed him.

    Now your credibility starts to crumble when you fall victim to the same nonsense as the others. You mention Cutlers wife and like the others have nothing of fact to speak of and this makes any arguments you’ve made weak at best.

    Yes TR’s family life matter, especially when his personality doesn’t seem to have changed from the incident in 1988. He continues to blow up and when he does he makes rash decisions. Decisions like telling a citizen to be ashamed for bringing up something that clearly happened and then agreeing to go outside the settle it. Come on, from the Sheriff?

    The things posted about TR are all legitimate, none of them conjecture like the claims made by the TR supporters so forget the slander and liable when we are talking about a public figure.

    As far as the family member of the current officer, I’m sure you might find a couple employees that enjoy the good ole boy program that requires nothing more than worshiping the master to get ahead.

    Like you started out your post, being frustrated with people who talk about things and don’t know. Sounds like you are one of them. This county doesn’t need a sheriff who gets kicked out of soccer games and gets into arguments with citizens.

  13. @integrity. there is only one side to the story.

    ranger tr beat up his wife committing aggravated assault.
    ranger tr confessed to DPS what he did was wrong.
    ranger tr was transferred from papma tx to austin because he beat up his wife and had no credibility in that area.
    ranger tr was put on 6 months DPS probation for beating up his wife.
    ranger tr was asked about this in debate in oct 2010 by a citizen.
    ranger tr lied and said it never happened.

    these are facts. not opinions.

    do. not. make. tr. mad.

  14. Bullet proof walls for the chief & mr Boardman was 1st priority! They should have done the bonding dept. Those bonding officers are there 24-7. Windows are plastic, they have no security cameras, no radio comunication with dispatch, no weapons. That should have been the 1st priority. What about Judge Prada office??? I guess she is on her own. I guess the bonding officers & the Judge will have to depend on the “batman light” when the shiz hits the floor! This election has the most dirt i have ever heard. Lets just go old school & have Ratliff & Cutler fight it out mano y mano to see who will be the next sheriff! oh & here is some more trash for this sheriff reality show, A long time Hays Co correction officer who battled & lost his fight with cancer died a few weeks ago. 2 memorials for him were held. Sheriff Cutler & Paige didn’t bother going to either one! An Austin PD officer killed (RIP officer Padron) & both Cutler & Paige are quick to be there for the funeral & talk about it on a TV news station! That really bothers me. I guess the Hays co officer wasn’t a supporter of Cutler & paige? who knows? That was very DISRESPECTFUL on their behaf! shame on you! I meant no disrepect to Officer Padron & his family. I hear he was a great person.

  15. The lack of informed people here are killing me….

    The bullet proof walls don’t even cover the Sheriff or the Chief’s office. If you are smart enough to look at commissioners court and public records you will see that the glass for the bonding area is on order and is being custom made for the modification. Bonding has radio communications with the correction facility, not to mention numerous phones. There is an armor or safe with weapons about 40 feet from bonding in a secure area they have access to. Judge Prado did not want her office done, and there are plans for modifications in her office so it would be a wasted expense at this point.

    Some jails with bulletproofing and fortification:

    Travis County (Central and Del Valle)
    Comal County
    Caldwell County
    Bexar County
    Harris County
    Etc, etc, etc….

    Police Departments with bulletproofing and fortification:

    San Marcos PD
    Austin PD
    San Antonio PD
    New Braunfels PD

    Oh and I am sure TR will remove all of this if he was back in office, which would be an additional waste of county funds on his part.

    I go into that lobby pretty regularly and have not seen these draps that have been put in. They is a light on the floor, which softens the lobby and cost around $500, which is out of the hundreds of thousands that Cutler has saved.

    Ask TR about the group of officers and staff that he tried to fire or have fired his last days in office cause they didn’t support him. Or the treats of termination for not being loyal to the king.

    All I got to say is get your facts straight and do some research.

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