McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna should be disqualified from prosecuting the Twin Peaks cases because he usurped police authority by charging the bikers en masse, he has a financial interest in the outcome and he hopes the notoriety will springboard him into state office, an attorney for one of the bikers argued Tuesday.
In a brief hearing Tuesday, Dallas attorney Clint Broden sought to recuse 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson from presiding over a hearing in which he will seek to disqualify Reyna and his office from handling the case of former biker Burton George Bergman.
Johnson declined to voluntarily step down from hearing the disqualification motion against Reyna, so retired State District Judge Joe Carroll, of Bell County, was appointed to hear the motion to recuse Johnson.
Carroll took the matter under advisement, giving parties on both sides until Friday to file briefs. He said he will rule by Dec. 8.
Bergman, 50, a Dallas truck driver, is a former member of the Desgraciados motorcycle group and is among 154 bikers indicted in the May 17, 2015, shootout in Waco that left nine dead and 20 injured. He has a tentative trial date for Jan. 22.
Broden is not seeking to recuse Johnson from hearing Bergman’s case at this time, only from hearing the motion seeking to disqualify Reyna.
Broden consolidated testimony from a pretrial hearing in Matthew Clendennen’s case in which Reyna was called as a witness. Reyna and Johnson voluntarily recused themselves in Clendennen’s case because the judge and Reyna are former law partners and Reyna testified at the hearing in Johnson’s court.
Broden also represents Clendennen, a former Scimitars group member from Hewitt.
Prosecutor Brody Burks objected to the record from Clendennen’s hearing being consolidated with Bergman’s, saying the cases are different.
“That case is not this case,” Burks said. “That hearing is not this hearing.”
Burks argued that the only way Reyna can be disqualified is if he voluntarily does so. He said if a judge orders it, the ruling is subject to an immediate and automatic appeal known as a writ of mandamus.
Reyna should not be called as a witness, and his actions before the bikers were arrested are not subject to relevant scrutiny because the subsequent indictments against the bikers are tantamount to sufficient probable cause to justify their arrests, Burks said.
Broden argued that Reyna will be a witness in Bergman’s case because his decision to arrest 177 bikers “over the collective wisdom of every police officer who mattered that day” violated bikers’ due process rights.
He also said Reyna and others are defendants in civil rights lawsuits filed by 100 of the bikers arrested that day and Reyna should be disqualified because he has a financial interest in getting convictions in the cases and not necessarily seeking justice.
Broden also said witnesses, including prosecutor Amanda Dillon, have reported that Reyna has said the Twin Peaks cases could get him elected attorney general or “lead to the governor’s mansion,” adding to Broden’s claim that Reyna has established a trend of making decisions for political gain.
Reyna and Dillon did not return phone messages left at their offices Tuesday.