This week, the Tenth Court of Appeals ruled that McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna will not be disqualified from prosecuting the infamous 2015 Waco shootout that occurred at the Twin Peaks restaurant between law enforcement and motorcycle clubs.
Attorney Clint Broden, was appealing a prior ruling on his motion to remove Reyna. Broden represents Matthew Clendennan, a former member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club.
In part, Broden’s argument was that Abel Reyna overstepped his legal authority by ordering the Waco Police Department to arrest everyone on site. It should be noted that prosecutors work routinely with law enforcement. Whether it is updating police on case law and proper procedures, to assisting in completing warrants. This is normal and expected.
However, Broden’s argument focuses on the Former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, who was not present the day of the May shooting since he was out of town. Chief Stroman had testified at a prior hearing and took responsibility for arresting those present, however, he did not realize that Reyna would end up charging everyone present under organized crime statutes. So everyone went from witness to defendant.
Now, having everyone listed as a witnesses is the proper call. I have written numerous times that the right thing to do was arrest those that had definitely committed crimes. Obtain everyone’s information and from there, watch the surveillance videos and look for additional criminal acts. Once spotted, an arrest affidavit is filed and the additional defendant(s) are arrested, charged accordingly, and proceeds through the criminal justice system. But, the mass arrests has even been called into question by legal experts. It defied all logic, legal or otherwise, or did it?
I hate to travel down the conspiracy road, so I’ll travel down the road of theory instead. Again, don’t take my word for it, but those of the legal experts that have made it clear this doesn’t fall under organized crime statutes.
Besides the obvious that I have written about that no matter what, Waco has to proceed with prosecuting everyone because if they don’t, the civil rights violations lawsuits would bankrupt the town. They have to obtain convictions or hope that the bikers take pleas in order to avoid the civil lawsuits. It was reported long ago that offers were made in exchange for an agreement to not file suit.
Now, I find it hard to believe any first year law student would agree that it was okay to arrest everyone on site especially with fill-in-the-blank arrest warrants. Or, that million dollar bonds were needed. But, let’s go a step further. How many times during one week, do you see or read in the news that a shooting took place and dozens of people were present? Were all those present arrested? Of course not, they are merely witnesses. But, let’s not stop there.
Why then would the top prosecutor in the county do such a thing? I can only come up with one answer- he was looking ahead. Ahead to what? A career above and beyond what Waco, Texas has to offer.
A case of this magnitude makes careers, but it also breaks them. This was a huge gamble and one that most likely clouded his judgment and legal mind. It will not be the first nor last time an overzealous prosecutor sees dollar signs or accolades from peers, or, a high ranking position at the state or federal level.
The problem however, lies in the fact that if you are in a hole, you need to stop digging. But in this case, with lawsuits worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the D.A.’s office cannot stop digging. In fact, Reyna has to keep digging to further entrench himself.
Now, will some convictions come out of this? Of course, but not 177 convictions. Reyna is experienced enough to know that, so is a first year law student. What the first year law student doesn’t know is that the game is not always played according to the black letter of the law. The 1L student as we used to call it, doesn’t understand the logistics of dollars and cents. Reyna does.
Reyna dug a hole for himself and is asking others to jump in with him, and he continues to double-down. In return, he continues to roll the dice and hopes that instead of snake eyes, the bikers’ knees’ buckle, and they accept pleas. If so, Reyna is the hero that saved Waco from the outlaw motorcycle gangs. If he doesn’t, trust me on this one, he will be run out of town and he will not be the next solicitor general of Texas or anything else.