Two more motions were filed Monday in an attempt to disqualify McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna from prosecuting the Twin Peaks shootout cases.
Dallas attorney Clint Broden, who represents bikers Matthew Clendennen and Burton George Bergman, alleges in his motions that Reyna “interjected himself and his staff” shortly after the May 17, 2015, shootout and “countermanded the decision by the (Waco police) upper chain of command in an act of political opportunism.”
Because Reyna is being sued in Austin U.S. District Court by 15 bikers, he should be disqualified from further dealings with those cases because he has a financial stake in the outcome of the cases, the motions allege.
The motions ask 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson and 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother to appoint another attorney to prosecute the cases. Clendennen’s case is in Johnson’s court, Bergman’s in Strother’s court.
Reyna did not return phone messages Monday.
“In pursuing my clients’ prosecution, it is clear that Mr. Reyna is being influenced by his own personal, financial interests, and that these interests compromise the performance of his public duty,” Broden said. “Only a true independent prosecutor will be in a position to truly act in the public’s interest and to seek justice. My clients and the citizens of McLennan County deserve a truly independent prosecutor on this case.”
Houston attorney Abigail Anastasio, who represents biker Ray Nelson, filed a similar motion in March, alleging Reyna and two of his top assistants, Michael Jarrett and Mark Parker, should be disqualified because they could be potential witnesses in the case.
Anastasio charges that Reyna overstepped his authority by “commandeering” the investigation after police had already interviewed a dozen or more bikers and decided to set them free.
“There is a big difference between advising and commandeering,” Anastasio said.
Fifteen bikers represented by Dallas attorney Don Tittle have filed federal lawsuits in Austin against Reyna, Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez and an unknown state trooper. The suits allege the men were arrested without sufficient evidence, violating their rights to due process.
Broden’s motion says Reyna and his assistants arrived at the scene within hours of the shooting and “inserted themselves into the role of investigators.” It alleges they overruled police officials by ordering that anyone with ties to the biker groups Bandidos or Cossacks be arrested on first-degree felony engaging in organized criminal activity charges.
“Mr. Reyna has painted himself into a corner in which he must take the risk of taking the case to trial based on his own financial interests,” Broden said. “Indeed, it appears that Mr. Reyna has been cast in the role of the lone player at the blackjack table at 3 a.m. in the morning doubling down on every losing hand, and the reason he is doubling down is that he has no real choice but to double down. Unfortunately, like the proverbial blackjack player, he will keep doubling down until he runs out of chips.”
Clendennen, Bergman and Nelson are among 154 bikers indicted in the Twin Peaks melee that left nine bikers dead and more than 20 others wounded.
Broden’s motions say that only an independent prosecutor “can truly act in the public’s interest to seek justice.”
“Simply put, Mr. Reyna’s career and financial well-being are in jeopardy because of this flagrant disregard of well-settled law,” the motion alleges. “Nevertheless, if he is able to obtain a conviction in this case, he reduces his personal financial exposure for the false arrest he caused when he overruled decisions made by the upper chain of command in the Waco Police Department.”
A hearing on Nelson’s motion is set for Aug. 8. Reyna asked Waco attorney Brandon Luce, a former prosecutor in Reyna’s office, to represent his office in the motion hearing.
Luce’s response to Anastasio’s motion challenges her allegations and says she has not met the “heightened burden” to disqualify an elected district attorney.