A judge appointed to hear a court of inquiry to determine if McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna or Waco police Detective Manuel Chavez lied during a hearing last year in the Twin Peaks shootout cases dismissed the proceedings Thursday.
David Peeples, of San Antonio, judge of the Fourth Administrative Region, informed the parties Thursday that he has dismissed the court of inquiry. 203rd State District Judge Teresa Hawthorne found in October that there was probable cause to believe an offense was committed and to request a regional administrative judge convene a court of inquiry.
“I have decided to dismiss the Chavez/Reyna court of inquiry,” Peeples wrote to the parties. “My decision rests on two separate and independent bases. First, I conclude that the evidence of perjury is insufficient and does not justify continuing the court of inquiry. Second, I continue to have serious prudential concerns about procedure, as was suggested in my earlier emails and in our discussions on Tuesday.”
The parties in the case met last week with Peeples to discuss how to proceed.
Peeples said he will issue an order next month that “elaborates on my reasoning.”
Hawthorne ruled there was probable cause for the court of inquiry based on an affidavit from Dallas attorney Clint Broden, who represents bikers Matthew Clendennen and George Bergman.
The court of inquiry would have focused on an Aug. 8, 2016, hearing 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 after the May 17, 2015, shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
Chavez testified he never spoke to Reyna that night.
Reyna did not return phone messages left on his cellphone or at his office Thursday.
“I am very happy for Detective Chavez that this unnecessary matter is over,” Chavez’s attorney, J.R. Vicha, said. “Now he can get back to doing his job of serving the citizens of the city of Waco as a special crimes detective. I am pleased with this result and appreciate the court’s careful consideration of the facts.”
The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas hired Vicha, a Waco attorney and former prosecutor in Reyna’s office, to represent Chavez in the court of inquiry.
Broden said he is disappointed in the judge’s ruling. He said Peeples expressed concern that the court of inquiry was initiated by a Dallas County district judge for something that happened in McLennan County while the Code of Criminal Procedure allows “any district judge of this state” to initiate a court of inquiry.
“Despite the plain reading of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Judge Peeples appears to believe that the court of inquiry could only have been initiated by a McLennan County district judge,” Broden said. “I believe I fulfilled my ethical responsibility by bringing this scientifically impossible contradiction in testimony to an impartial judge to determine if a court of inquiry should be initiated.
“I am disappointed that this process was not completed as contemplated by the Code of Criminal Procedure. Having fulfilled my ethical responsibility, I consider my role in this matter to be concluded.”
Broden and other attorneys have attempted to have Reyna disqualified based on the conflicting testimony at the hearing involving the cases of Clendennen and Nelson and for other reasons.
“In my almost 30 years of law practice, I have never had to even consider requesting a court of inquiry,” Broden said in October. “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 has said he anticipates other courts of inquiry to be convened to review other aspects of how Reyna’s office handled the Twin Peaks cases, including information outlined in 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 consensual sexual encounter.