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Jury: Attorney is not guilty of tampering

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Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 12:00 am

NEW BRAUNFELS - The strange case of Alaine Vorheier may have finally rested.

Almost two years after Vorheier was found guilty, a Comal County jury found her attorney, Deborah S. Perry, not guilty Wednesday of tampering with a witness in Comal County district court.

The Perry case stemmed from the case against Vorheier. In 2009, a seven-woman, five-man Guadalupe County jury found Vorheier, then 36, guilty of engaging in sex with her 13-year-old stepson on numerous occasions. A DNA paternity test showed that the boy likely is the father of one of her children.

Vorheier was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Assistant Texas Attorney Generals Tom Cloudt and Steven Todd set out to prove that Perry had tried to influence or coerce the testimony of her client's stepson by telling him he faced possible rape charges after his stepmother was charged with the offense of having sex with him when he was 13.

Perry took the stand, telling jurors Vorheier asked Perry for representation after agreeing to a plea agreement that called for 10 years deferred adjudication.

Early interviews seemed to corroborate Vorheier's account and a 2006 pre-sentence investigation interview that she had been raped by the teen, the Seguin attorney recalled.

"They led me to believe the rapes were occurring," Perry recalled.

As the trial date approached, Perry stepped away from the rape defense, she said. "Alaine was wobbling back and forth, the children were changing their stories - I didn't feel comfortable putting them on the stand," she said.

Perry filed a motion to adopt a previous motion to have a child testify in an effort to bring the stepson to testify in his stepmother's case.

Jurors heard testimony from the victim in the Vorheier case that his own father made repeated efforts to get his son not to testify against Alaine Vorheier - including taking the boy, then a minor, to Cibolo Police Department to file an affidavit of non-prosecution stating that he didn't wish to prosecute and wouldn't testify against her.

Perry testified that when she visited the stepson in jail in April 2008 and again at his place of work, she was just trying to determine the status of the affidavit (later rejected by the court), which she hadn't been able to confirm.

In closing, Perry's defense attorney Jimmy Parks said the jurors were being asked to ignore how hard the stepson's dad allegedly worked to get his son not to testify against Vorheier.

"It's huge to get a lawyer ... How do you know it's huge to get the scalp of a lawyer? Because (the prosecution) are asking you to be a part of taking the blindfold off of Lady Justice," Parks said.

Assistant Attorney General Steven Todd argued it would be hard to get justice if the prosecution can't get witnesses to testify.

"It was that Lady Justice was being gagged ... It was the stepmom, the dad and Deborah Perry who helped cinch the gag around (the stepson's) mouth," Todd said.

Parks told jurors the legal system wouldn't be able to bear the weight of all criminal cases going to trial, so efforts to settle matters out of court are critical - and that takes research.

"Don't send that chilling effect out to all of us (defense attorneys) to make us even be afraid to talk to somebody, to make us afraid to prepare a case," Parks said.

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