DA race

Sutton

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

Waco attorney Seth Andrew Sutton thinks the McLennan County District Attorney’s office needs to move in a different direction and he said Wednesday he wants to lead that effort.

Sutton, 43, a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, filed Wednesday to run for district attorney in the Democratic primary. If no other candidate files as a Democrat, Sutton will face the Republican nominee in the November 2018 general election.

Barry Johnson, 61, is challenging incumbent Abel Reyna in the March Republican primary. Johnson, who moved back to Waco recently, has practiced personal injury law in Dallas since 1989 and is the son of the late Judge Joe N. Johnson, who served as justice of the peace and state district judge for 40 years.

Reyna, 45, the son of Felipe Reyna, a former district attorney and appellate court justice, is seeking his third term as district attorney.

Sutton filed after a tumultuous year for Reyna, who failed to win a conviction last month in the first trial of a Twin Peaks biker and has been accused of doing favors and dismissing criminal cases for campaign donors. The FBI reportedly is investigating him, which Reyna denies.

“I just think a change is needed, and I want to offer a different path forward,” Sutton said. “I think it is always a good thing when voters have options, and I think I bring some good options to the table. I will bring in an administration where everyone is treated equally under the law regardless of ethnicity, race, how much money you make and who you are socially.”

Sutton is aware that Democratic candidates have not fared well recently in McLennan County.

“I think the voters of McLennan County are sophisticated enough to understand the race for district attorney is not a hyper-partisan election,” Sutton said. “We are not being elected to decide things that involve a lot of hot-button political issues. We are here to do a very specific job, and it’s that job that I am qualified for and would like an opportunity to execute.”

Born in Abilene and raised in Joshua, Sutton graduated from Plano High School and Texas Tech University. He graduated from Baylor University Law School in 2005 and has been practicing criminal law in Waco since 2006.

He moved into a solo practice in 2008 and since has built the law firm of Sutton, Milam and Fanning, which employs six attorneys and two staff members.

“I am really proud of the work we have done and the work we continue to do,” Sutton said.

He lived in New York City from 1997 to 2002 to pursue a career in musical theater. He appeared in several “off-off-off Broadway” plays and musicals until the events of Sept. 11, 2001, closed down many Broadway theaters. Sutton moved to Waco and entered Baylor Law School in May 2002.

His wife of 18 months, Katy, is a Waco psychologist, and they have four sons and a daughter by previous marriages.

Sutton represents Jeff Battey, a Bandido from Ponder, in the Twin Peaks case and said he is troubled by the financial toll prosecution of the biker-related cases is taking on McLennan County.

“I want to bring a sense of financial responsibility to the office,” he said. “I am gravely concerned about what is going to happen to property taxes, for instance, if we continue on the path we are on in handling the Twin Peaks situation.”

Like other attorneys in the case, Sutton questions Reyna’s handling of the cases and his role in the decision to arrest 177 bikers after the May 2015 shootout because of their affiliations with the Bandidos or Cossacks groups.

“I would have let the police investigate and make their decisions and direct their own investigation and then bring me the results instead of trying to be at the forefront of the investigation,” Sutton said. “You have to be really careful in a position like district attorney not to use it as a position of striving, where you want certain numbers or you want to be this or that. In the position of district attorney, you just have to be committed to looking at each case on its merits and doing the right thing.”

The candidate filing period ends Monday. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 5. For more information, visit http://co.mclennan.tx.us/337/Elections

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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