With McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna desperately dumping Twin Peaks biker cases right and left in recent days, the astonished taxpayer must demand honesty of himself if not of Reyna: Does anyone really believe Reyna has suddenly been struck by an epiphany that has stubbornly eluded him in the nearly three years since the May 17, 2015, biker shootout that left nine dead and 20 wounded?
If so, this epiphany has to do with political odds, not any interest in justice.
And it must have been some epiphany. Reyna is credited with hijacking a Waco police murder investigation in 2015 and throwing 177 bikers in jail on dubious organized-crime charges and million-dollar bonds, then pressing for 155 indictments. As other county officials’ fears have mounted about potentially costly lawsuits over trampled civil rights and a half-million dollars in security for just the first Twin Peaks trial — a mistrial — Reyna didn’t budge in his supposedly tough DA convictions.
Now he draws political opponents from all corners, including a fellow Republican who doesn’t balk at insisting what too many others hesitated to say: Whether from political aspirations, incompetence or both, Reyna has bungled the Twin Peaks cases from the very start. In past weeks he has quite obviously sought to block disqualification hearings and squelch damning testimony by former prosecutors and law enforcement officials about what they say are politically driven acts by Reyna such as quashing unrelated prosecution cases for campaign donors and friends and ties to illegal gambling.
As of last week, Reyna would have us believe he has suddenly seen the need for prosecutorial discretion in going after more culpable Twin Peaks culprits — as Waco police were trying to do before he interfered in 2015. The truth: He’s cutting his losses ahead of a contested primary election any which way he can, up to and including throwing venerable District Judge Ralph Strother under the bus in a delaying tactic quickly slapped down by a visiting judge who saw through the ruse.
There’s no doubt some bikers involved in the Twin Peaks melee of 2015 warrant stern justice. But the DA’s office was also charged under our laws with sorting out who initiated or perpetuated the violence that day and who didn’t. Judging from the videos in the first trial, the multitude of motorcyclists at Twin Peaks cowered and panicked, diving under tables and ducking into restrooms when the shooting erupted. Many then went to jail for weeks, thanks to Reyna. Some saw lives and careers upended, finances strained.
For innocents swept up in this tragedy, it took a district attorney suddenly running for his political life before his office saw fit to dismiss charges against some of them. The reason they find themselves free from the long shadow of prosecution in McLennan County has nothing to do with justice. And given the sworn affidavits of credible witnesses willing to testify about Reyna’s motivations in the Twin Peaks cases and yet other cases, resourceful lawyers might well demand Reyna’s recusal in almost any case going forward. The question now looming over what passes for justice in our county: Have the voters had enough?