The mass arrests of 177 bikers after the May 17 Twin Peaks shootout is a “nightmarish situation” for everyone involved and are straining the local criminal justice system to unprecedented levels, the presiding judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region said Monday.
Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, who presides over the 26-county region, said he will meet with Ralph Strother and Matt Johnson, McLennan County’s primary felony court judges, on Tuesday to “basically brainstorm” ways to expedite bond-reduction hearings and other matters involving the bikers’ cases.
As of Sunday night, 73 out of 177 arrested bikers had been released from jail, most on reduced bonds negotiated between their attorneys and the district attorney’s office and approved by Johnson and Strother.
Stubblefield, of Georgetown, is charged with appointing visiting judges in the region to fill in for vacationing or ill judges or those who have been recused from hearing a particular case.
He has pledged to send judges to McLennan County to assist with hearings in the bikers’ cases, if needed.
Stubblefield made his offer for additional resources to Strother and Johnson shortly after the deadly incident, almost two weeks before two attorneys filed a motion last week seeking an order from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to force Stubblefield to appoint more judges to expedite bond-reduction hearings for those jailed.
McLennan County has five state district courts with concurrent jurisdiction, but Strother and Johnson preside over felony criminal cases.
“I had indicated that if there is anything we could do to help, we stand ready to do that, basically by appointing as many visiting judges as needed to carry out hearings that need to be held,” Stubblefield said. “We are planning to meet on Tuesday and hopefully discuss the current status of all the cases and see if there is anything we can do to speed the process along.”
Stubblefield said he has not been served with the application for writ of mandamus filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals or heard from the court.
He said he and the McLennan County judges will have a “general discussion” to see if there are other ways the judges can get information that might be helpful to them to determine bond amounts and conditions of release.
Most of those released under the negotiated bond reductions are required to wear ankle monitors, have no association with biker gangs or clubs, abide by curfews and return to McLennan County only for court dates.
“When you have 170 arrested at the same time, it is just a sudden rush, like if you were in a fast-food restaurant and three buses pulled up and all the kids want their food just as fast as they normally do. It is a nightmarish situation for everyone involved,” Stubblefield said. “It is a very complicated process and unprecedented, as far as my experience is concerned.”
Johnson said he has asked his court coordinator to try to move some bond-reduction hearings set for Friday afternoon to earlier in the week because he has no trial in his court this week.
Most of those set for Friday already have negotiated bond reductions with the DA’s office, court officials said.
Strother, who has a trial beginning Tuesday, said he approved two more bond reductions n Monday, while Johnson said he approved about 10.
“We look forward to meeting with Judge Stubblefield and arriving at some creative ways to expedite the whole process, because that is in everybody’s best interest,” Strother said.
Meanwhile, Dallas attorney Clinton Broden filed three motions on behalf of his client, Matthew Alan Clendennen, who has been released from custody.
One motion asks Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson to reschedule an examining trial in Clendennen’s case from August to June. Broden also filed a motion for speedy trial in Johnson’s court.
Also, he filed a motion in Peterson’s court to recover Clendennen’s motorcycle and cellphone, which were seized after his arrest.