Sam Oatman, District Attorney for the 33rd and 424th Judicial Districts has announced his filing for a 6th term of office subject to the March 4, 2008 Republican Primary.
Oatman began his career as a prosecutor under the late Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney, Alton Griffen on March 18, 1976. While there he prosecuted all types of felonies from rape cases to capital murder cases. He spent two years there as the Chief prosecutor of the 72nd Judicial District Court, one of five District Courts, before returning to his home in Llano to go into private practice with his father, the late Wilburn Oatman.
Not long after returning home, he was employed by the Honorable Louis Crump as First Assistant District Attorney for the 33rd Judicial District which was then comprised of Blanco, Burnet, Llano, Mason and San Saba Counties. The new 424th District Court has since been added to better accommodate the remaining 4 counties since Mason left the district in September 1999. The District Attorney’s Office still handles only felony cases which are those serious crimes that could involve felony prison penalties up to Capital Murder.
Oatman entered the Professional Prosecutors program in 1999 to become a full time District Attorney. A Professional Prosecutor by law cannot have any other law practice and cannot accept referral fees on civil cases that may arise out of the criminal cases.
“The case load has more than tripled since I took office. I started with myself and an administrative assistant. Since then, the office has grown and now administration has become my primary function with 5 Assistant District Attorneys, 2 investigators, 2 victim service personnel and 5 administrative personnel. The four county district now has nearly 80,000 people and continues to grow.” Oatman says, “and my office is still somewhat understaffed to meet the increasing case load and increased responsibility with the new 424th Judicial District Court. I hope that will soon change.”
“My office has handled over 15,000 felony cases in the four county district, according to State District Records. We only researched back to 1992. This does not include cases handled by my office prior to that time or those my district court handled during my two years in Lubbock. Criminal fines assessed from 2000 up to November 2008 amounted to over $3.4 million and restitution assessed for citizens’s losses during that period alone amounted to over $3.5 million. The penitentiary time assessed by myself and my staff amounted to more than 2,752 years to convicted felons over my last 27 years of service from the 72nd Judicial District Court to the 33rd & 424th Judicial District Courts including one death penalty case and four life sentences. My experience speaks for itself.”
During his administration Oatman has maintained a competent, experienced staff of Assistant District Attorneys (ADA’s) to handle the growing number of cases in the two districts. Our ADA’s have over 35 combined years of experience. In 1999, Oatman added a Victim Services Division to meet the needs of victims throughout the judicial process. He also added to his office the responsibilities for the 33rd Judicial District Drug Enforcement Task Force which was later changed to the Methamphetamine Initiative Group (MIG). Due to lack of government funding, this organization was forced to disband effective Oct. 1, 2007. Burnet County is the only county left with an organization in full operation through Burnet County funding along with some financial assistance from Llano and Blanco counties.
Oatman says the rise in child abuse cases prompted him to assign one of his ADA’s to specially handle these cases which involves special training. Also, his office has an ADA specially assigned to drug cases as those crimes are continuously on the rise. It is a recognized fact that drug abuse is the root of most other felony offenses. Drug cases are now investigated by the law enforcement agencies in each county. “My office is still aggressive in prosecuting those drug cases,” Oatman says.
“I am dedicated to my career as a prosecutor and feel I have made a contribution to my community and wish to continue doing so. I carry on a legacy of family public service dating back to the Oatman family arriving in the hill country in the 1840's. My Grandfather, Wilburn F.P. Oatman once held the office of District Attorney of the 33rd Judicial District more than a hundred years ago. He traveled the same roads I travel today. The only difference is that he traveled by horse and buggy; often spending the night in local hotels while court was in session.”
“I believe I have served the people of the four county district with honesty and integrity, being tough but fair, strict but compassionate and always treating my fellow attorneys in the criminal courts with dignity, fairness and respect while at the same time being sure that justice is being served in my capacity as law enforcement for the citizens I represent.”