An attorney representing a Hewitt man arrested during the May 17, 2015, Twin Peaks shootout has filed again to have McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna removed from prosecuting the case, two months after a judge ruled Reyna could continue in that role.
Matthew Alan Clendennen, a former member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club, filed a petition for writ of mandamus Monday asking the 10th Court of Appeals to review the district court’s refusal to disqualify Reyna’s office from prosecuting his case. The petition also asks that an independent and unbiased prosecutor take over the case.
In late October, 54th State District Court Judge Matt Johnson denied a motion from Clendennen and biker Ray Nelson that claimed Reyna should be disqualified because he has a financial interest in securing convictions — due to several civil suits filed in the case naming him as a defendant — and he overstepped his authority when advising police about the mass arrests of 177 bikers.
Clendennen and more than 150 other bikers have been indicted on identical charges of engaging in organized activity to commit capital murder, murder or aggravated assault.
Texas law states it is normally up to the district attorney to initiate recusal, but a trial court may disqualify a prosecutor when the disqualification is based on a conflict of interest that rises to the level of a due process violation, according to the petition. Reyna’s testimony is essential for the jury to understand the course of the investigation in this case, the petition continues.
Tom Brandt, Reyna’s attorney, argued in October at the two hearings on the motion that if Reyna is disqualified, it would set a dangerous precedent by which every criminal defendant could civilly sue the prosecutor handling his case to get him removed, crippling the nation’s criminal justice system.
Dallas attorney Clint Broden, who represents Clendennen, said the writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy. Broden said testimony from the previous hearing indicates Reyna’s need to hand the case over.
“First, it was clear from the hearing that Mr. Reyna orchestrated the wholesale arrest of the motorcyclists even when all three of the Waco assistant police chiefs on the scene that day correctly determined most of the motorcyclists to be mere witnesses,” Broden said in a statement.
“Second, despite Mr. Reyna’s testimony under oath that he had extensive discussions with Waco Police Detective Manual Chavez about the preparation of the fill-in-the-blank arrest warrant affidavits for the 177 motorcyclists, Detective Chavez testified under oath that he never even saw Mr. Reyna that night. In other words, both gave testimony under oath that completely contradicted one another.
“Third, the civil rights lawsuits against Mr. Reyna create a situation where he must see these frivolous persecutions through in order to embolden his position in the civil rights cases pending against him in federal court.
“Finally, although Mr. Reyna testified under oath that he expected McLennan County taxpayers to indemnify him for any judgments in the civil rights cases filed against him, it was later determined that McLennan County commissioners have not made such agreement with him.”
Reyna did not return requests for comment Monday.
Broden said Clendennen wants to be afforded his due process rights under the Constitution and have his case prosecuted by an unbiased prosecutor.
“Mr. Clendennen deserves that, the McLennan County taxpayers deserve that, and the criminal justice system as a whole deserves that,” Broden said.