An attorney for one of the bikers indicted in the deadly 2015 Twin Peaks shootout said it appears the “Twin Peaks dam” is starting to break with the dismissal of charges against 13 bikers Thursday.
Meanwhile, the same attorney, Brian Bouffard, said McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna only dropped the cases in a show of “moral cowardice by an elected official” to avoid adverse testimony at a scheduled Thursday hearing to disqualify his office.
Two district judges signed orders submitted to them by the DA’s office Thursday morning dismissing charges against 13 bikers arrested in the May 17, 2015, Twin Peaks shootout and two recusing the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office in two other biker cases.
Besides the 13 dismissals, prosecutor Michael Jarrett told the judges that Reyna also intends to formally refuse eight more cases against bikers who were arrested, but have not been indicted in the shootout that left nine dead and dozens injured.
The dismissals came hours before a hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon at which two bikers were asking to disqualify Reyna from handling their cases on a variety of grounds.
That hearing was canceled in light of Reyna’s actions.
Reyna did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday and declined to provide the Tribune-Herald with a written statement he prepared about the dismissals.
Judge Ralph Strother, of Waco’s 19th State District Court, said Thursday he plans to ask the Texas Attorney General’s Office prosecutorial assistance division to take over prosecution of the case against biker Billy McRee. Reyna agreed to recuse his office in that case, while he dismissed the case against Jorge Salinas.
Salinas, a two-tour Marine combat veteran; and McRee, a mechanic, are both former members of the Cossacks motorcycle group.
Salinas, who said he was sitting in a deer blind when he was notified his case had been dismissed, said he became emotional at the news. He said he is grateful, but that the decision came too late and at too high a cost to him and his family.
Salinas, his family and Bouffard, of Fort Worth, spoke at a press conference Thursday that also included McRee and his family; and his attorney, David Conrad Beyer, also of Fort Worth; and Dallas attorney Clint Broden.
Broden, who represents two bikers indicted in the incident, said they chose the first-floor courthouse rotunda as the location of the press conference because it was there that Reyna held a press conference almost three years ago to announce that he had, as Broden characterized it, “bamboozled” a grand jury into indicting 154 bikers on identical charges after the shootout.
“My client is a decorated Marine combat veteran,” Bouffard said. “He and I took the same oath years ago. Part of that oath is that we will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And I ask you and I ask the public to ask yourselves, what better definition of a domestic enemy of our Constitution than Abel Reyna?”
The attorneys charged that Reyna only decided to drop the charges and to recuse his office in McRee’s case to escape being placed under oath at the disqualification hearing and to prevent the adverse testimonies of former and current members of his staff, some of whom have reported alleged abuses of his office to Texas Rangers and the FBI.
“The Twin Peaks dam has now broken, and with each new dismissal that may come, the public will see clearly what Twin Peaks defense counsel have known for almost three years — that Abel Reyna arrested, charged, and indicted a very large number of these men for purely political reasons, apparently without any intent to take them to trial,” Bouffard said in a statement Thursday morning.
“Though it took far too long, we pushed Mr. Reyna’s back to the wall and he finally had nowhere else to run.”
Bikers whose cases were dismissed in 54th State District Court include Colter Bajovich, Jose Valle, James Rosas, Diego Nerio Obledo, Michael Doyle Moore, William Redding and Marco Dejong.
Bikers besides Salinas whose cases were dismissed Thursday in 19th State District Court include Boyce Ray Rockett, Narcisco Luna Jr., Mario Alberto Gonzalez Jr., Clifford Lee Pearce and Andrew Raymond Stroer.
Those bikers not indicted whose cases were officially refused Thursday include Esther Weaver, Ryan Craft, Jonathan Lopez, Theron Rhoten, Jim Harris, Bonar Crump, Juan Garcia and Drew King.
The motions to dismiss, signed by Reyna’s top assistant, Michael Jarrett, state: “While probable cause for the defendant’s arrest and prosecution remains, based on continued investigation, the state is exercising its prosecutorial discretion in dismissing this matter in order to focus its efforts and resources on co-defendants with a higher level of culpability.”
Attorneys for Twin Peaks defendants and Reyna’s Republican primary opponent, Barry Johnson, said Reyna is doing whatever he can to keep the disqualification hearing — in which Greg Davis, a former prosecutor in Reyna’s office, and others were expected to give potentially politically damaging testimony about Reyna — from taking place, including asking for it to be postponed and asking for Judge Strother’s removal last month.
“During my campaign for district attorney, I have been saying all along that Abel Reyna has put justice in jeopardy and that there is proof that justice is for sale in McLennan County,” Johnson said. “Recent events have proven me correct. By dismissing Twin Peaks cases and recusing others, Abel Reyna has all but admitted misconduct in how he has handled the cases. Abel Reyna’s political ambition not only jeopardized justice, but will also cost McLennan County taxpayers millions of dollars.
“In addition, Reyna has once again been able to hide from answering serious political corruption questions about his dismissal of criminal cases for friends and influential people in exchange for campaign donations.”
Pending civil suits
Some of the Twin Peaks defendants whose cases were dismissed or refused Thursday are among 100 bikers who are plaintiffs in federal civil rights lawsuits pending in an Austin federal court. Most of those plaintiffs are represented by Dallas attorney Don Tittle, who said the refusal of the eight unindicted cases is “purely a smoke screen.” He added there are at least 25 other unindicted bikers whose cases also should be refused to release them “from this never-ending legal limbo in which they have found themselves trapped.”
“I am glad to see the DA is finally beginning to fold his cards on some of these, but his claim that this is based on a ‘re-evaluation’ of the facts is more than a bit disingenuous,” Tittle said. “The facts remain exactly as they were on the day all of these innocent people were falsely arrested. ...
All along, Reyna’s lawyers have used the criminal cases as an excuse to prevent us from going forward with the civil cases. Sooner than later, I believe that a day of reckoning is coming for Mr. Reyna and the others that perpetrated this mass injustice.”