A Dallas judge has found probable cause exists to request a court of inquiry to determine if McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna or Waco Police Detective Manuel Chavez lied during an August 2016 hearing regarding the Twin Peaks shootout cases.
Based on an affidavit from Dallas attorney Clint Broden, 203rd State District Judge Teresa Hawthorne found there is probable cause that an offense was committed and to request a regional administrative judge to convene a court of inquiry, Broden said Monday in a release.
Broden’s complaint stems from a hearing on Aug. 8, 2016, in which Reyna testified to what Broden calls “extensive discussions” he had with Chavez before Chavez signed the identical, “fill-in-the-name” Twin Peaks arrest warrant affidavits for 177 motorcyclists following the May 17, 2015, shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
Chavez testified he never spoke to Reyna that night.
Chavez declined comment on the court of inquiry request Monday morning. Reyna did not return a phone message.
According to Broden, the first step in the procedures for a court of inquiry is for a district judge to find, based upon an affidavit submitted to the court, that there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed, which Hawthorne has done.
Next, Broden said, the presiding judge for the First Administrative Judicial District will appoint a different district judge to conduct the court of inquiry. That district judge will appoint a special prosecutor.
No hearing date had been set Monday morning.
“If it appears from the court of inquiry that Mr. Reyna or Mr. Chavez committed perjury, the judge presiding over the court of inquiry will issue a warrant for the arrest of the offender,” Broden said. “The Texas Court of Inquiry procedure is not used often. However, its use is particularly appropriate where there is probable cause to believe a crime may have been committed by a public official that might otherwise not be investigated.”
Broden and other attorneys have attempted to have Reyna disqualified based on the conflicting testimony at the hearing involving the cases of Matthew Clendennen and Ray Nelson, two bikers accused of participating in the deadly shootout, which left nine dead and dozens injured.
Broden’s affidavit asks “that a court of inquiry be commenced in order to determine if the offense of perjury and/or aggravated perjury was committed by Abelino Reyna or Manuel Chavez during their testimony” in that hearing.
“In my almost 30 years of law practice, I have never had to even consider requesting a court of inquiry. Nevertheless, perjury strikes at the core of our system of justice and, therefore, apparent contradictory statements under oath by public officials must be investigated,” Broden said.
“I am pleased that Judge Hawthorne recognized the need to hold public officials to the same standards as ordinary citizens. Her actions took courage and she is a true example of the type of exemplary judge who does not show favoritism nor bias and simply calls ‘balls and strikes.’ I remind people that Messrs. Reyna and Chavez are presumed to be innocent and I look forward to the court of inquiry process investigating this case to a conclusion no matter what conclusion is ultimately reached,” he said.
Perjury is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail. Aggravated Perjury is a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“It is not going to surprise me if we see other courts of inquiry initiated regarding various aspects of the handling of the Twin Peaks cases by the district attorney’s office,” Broden said Monday, referring to a recent motion to disqualify Reyna’s office from prosecuting the cases because prosecutors released videos from a biker’s cellphone through the discovery process that show him and his wife in a sexual encounter.