On the eve of a hearing at which two Twin Peaks shootout bikers were seeking to disqualify McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna from prosecuting their cases, Reyna instead decided to dismiss one of those cases and recuse his office in the other.
Reyna’s office has also notified 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother that it intends to dismiss engaging in organized criminal activity charges against five other bikers arrested after the May 2015 shootout at Twin Peaks.
Strother said Wednesday evening he will grant the motions to dismiss the charges and recuse the DA’s office Thursday morning.
Reyna did not return phone calls Wednesday.
Strother had scheduled a hearing for Thursday afternoon at which Fort Worth attorneys Brian Bouffard and David Conrad Beyer, who represent bikers Jorge Salinas and Billy McCree, both Cossacks, intended to seek to disqualify Reyna from prosecuting the cases on a variety of grounds.
That hearing, already rescheduled from Jan. 22, will be canceled. Prosecutors from Reyna’s office asked Strother to postpone the Jan. 22 hearing. When Strother declined to put the hearing off, Reyna’s first assistant, Michael Jarrett, countered with a motion from Reyna to recuse Strother from the two cases.
A visiting judge declined to remove Strother from the cases after a hearing Feb. 2, and Strother set Reyna’s disqualification hearing for Thursday. The decision by Reyna to dismiss the charges against Salinas and to recuse his office in McCree’s case again cancels a hearing at which several of his current and former employees, a retired police detective and others had been subpoenaed to testify.
Bouffard and Beyer said last month that Reyna’s last-second motion to recuse Strother was an attempt to postpone the disqualification hearing until after the March 6 primary election. The attorneys said testimony at the hearing would show that Reyna took over the Twin Peaks investigation out of political opportunism, dismisses cases for friends and donors, and has close friends implicated in illegal gambling operations.
Reyna is opposed in the Republican primary by Barry Johnson, son of longtime McLennan County Judge Joe N. Johnson.
“Mr. Salinas, his family, and I are very happy that the case against him has been dismissed by Abel Reyna on the eve of a hearing into Mr. Reyna’s misconduct,” Bouffard said Wednesday evening. “Jorge is a strong and resilient young man who has lived under this unjust shadow for almost three years now, and he’s conducted himself with honor, courage and grace in that time, like the exemplary Marine combat veteran he is.
“I could not be more proud to be Jorge’s lawyer, and his friend. And while it’s true that justice delayed is justice denied, and that so many of these men should obviously never have been arrested to begin with, it’s now time for Jorge and his family to take a deep breath and let it sink in that this ugly, politically driven nightmare is now, for him, over.”
While Salinas would be the first of the 154 Twin Peaks defendants to have his case dismissed, documents sent to Strother’s court Wednesday evening by the DA’s office indicate the state also will dismiss charges against bikers Boyce Ray Rockett, Narcisco Luna Jr., Mario Alberto Gonzalez Jr., Clifford Lee Pearce and Andrew Raymond Stroer.
The documents also state that, while the DA’s office is dismissing those cases, it still believes probable cause exists. Prosecutors have decided to re-evaluate the facts of the cases and concentrate on defendants with a greater degree of culpability, according to the documents.
The DA’s office intends to recuse itself in McCree’s case “in the interest of justice” and because Reyna may be called as a witness, the motions state.
Strother said he will appoint a special prosecutor to handle McCree’s case.
Johnson, Reyna’s Republican opponent, said many anticipated Reyna would find a way to avoid the disqualification hearing and facing testimony from his former first assistant, Greg Davis. Davis has said he resigned because Reyna operates a “two-tiered system of justice” and dismisses cases for political gain.
“He is just ducking and hiding,” Johnson said. “I think he is doing what everybody anticipated because Abel Reyna is not doing his job. He is hiding from the voters because of the bad job he is doing. He doesn’t want them to know what he is doing before the primary. He doesn’t want to answer for his actions and it is ultimately going to cost the taxpayers even more money to hire outside prosecutors. He is playing games and trying to hide until after the primary.”
Bouffard had subpoenaed Davis, former police detective Sherry Kingrey, former prosecutor Brittany Scaramucci and current assistants Michael Jarrett, Amanda Dillon and Sterling Harmon to testify at the hearing Thursday.
“Mr. Reyna has called most of these witnesses liars in the press and in his campaign rhetoric — disparaging them and much of the press as ‘fake news’ to anyone still impressed by that — so Mr. Reyna will also be called to the stand tomorrow to testify, under oath and under penalty of perjury, why he thinks they’re the ones doing the lying. We welcome his testimony and the opportunity to examine him under oath,” Bouffard said in a statement Wednesday before the hearing was canceled.
“We intend to make three things crystal clear to the court and to those citizens of McLennan County who are paying attention, (1) that Mr. Reyna made himself a material witness in the Twin Peaks cases by choosing to act as an on-scene police commander instead of a prosecutor, (2) that Mr. Reyna has a long-standing history of official corruption as the elected district attorney, which in May 2015 animated him to arrest 177 people, not based on evidence, the law, and the prosecutor’s oath to do justice, but rather to advance his personal political ambition, and (3) that Mr. Reyna has an impermissible financial interest in the outcome of these cases because he is being personally held accountable for his violation of these motorcyclists’ civil rights as Texans and as Americans,” Bouffard wrote.
Davis, Scaramucci and Kingrey have said they spoke to an FBI agent several years ago about an investigation of Reyna and that they believe that investigation is ongoing.