A local justice of the peace was removed Thursday from an examining trial in the case of a Hewitt biker accused of engaging in organized crime in relation to the shootout at Twin Peaks restaurant.
Joe Carroll, senior judge of the 27th Judicial District Court, granted a motion to recuse Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson from the case involving Matthew Clendennen after Clendennen’s attorney, Clinton Broden, filed a complaint against Peterson.
Peterson set the initial $1 million bonds for the 177 bikers arrested in the aftermath of the May 17 shootout, and he was on the scene that day to pronounce death and order autopsies on all nine bodies of those who were killed.
Carroll said Clendennen’s case should now fall to the next-closest justice of the peace, Dianne Hensley. Broden noted during the hearing that Hensley has said she will recuse herself because she doesn’t think she can be impartial.
If Hensley recuses herself, it will be up to Billy Ray Stubblefield, administrative judge of the 26-county 3rd Judicial Region, to assign the case to another court.
Hensley was not available for comment Thursday.
Broden’s complaint, filed June 2 with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleges Peterson violated several judicial ethical canons when he set the bonds for the jailed bikers. Broden has said his complaint is based on comments Peterson made to the Tribune-Herald after the shooting.
“I think it is important to send a message,” Peterson said at the time. “We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in, and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.”
Broden’s complaint alleges Peterson’s “public comments would cause persons to believe that they could not get a fair examining trial before Peterson.”
In the complaint, he alleges it is unlawful to set bonds to “send a message” and that Peterson’s quotes “indicate that he sets bonds out of bias against people who visit Waco.”
Carroll did not comment on the merit of Broden’s allegations.
Clendennen has said he was sitting on the Twin Peaks patio when the shooting broke out. He has said he was not involved in the violence but is associated with the Scimitars Motorcycle Club.
A gag order has been placed on the Clendennen case, prohibiting parties from speaking about it.