A Dallas attorney who represents a biker in a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Waco and McLennan County filed a complaint Tuesday against McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson.
The complaint, filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct by attorney Clinton Broden, alleges Peterson violated several judicial ethical canons in the manner in which he set bonds for the 175 bikers jailed after the May 17 shootout at Twin Peaks restaurant.
Peterson, who ordered autopsies for the nine killed that day and pronounced them dead, declined comment on the complaint against him.
Broden said his complaint is based on comments Peterson made to the Tribune-Herald, including, “I think it is important to send a message. We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in, and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.”
The complaint also alleges that Peterson set $1 million bonds for the bikers “without any individual consideration for the facts of the individual cases.”
Many of those bonds have since been reduced after negotiations between biker attorneys and prosecutors. State District Judges Ralph Strother and Matt Johnson have approved the reduction agreements in the past few days.
Broden’s complaint also alleges Peterson set bonds “in mass, group hearings without considering the rules for establishing bonds under the Code of Criminal Procedure.”
Broden said it is “completely inappropriate” under state law to set bonds “to send a message.”
“It is our belief that law enforcement chose Peterson to set the bonds in this case because of his lack of legal training and his willingness to ignore the requirements that each case be given individual consideration,” Broden said.
The complaint also charges that Peterson, a retired state trooper, “inappropriately refused to set probable cause hearings” in some biker cases until Aug. 6, “almost three months after the arrests — only after consulting with the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.”
Broden filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last week in Waco’s U.S. District Court on behalf of Matthew Alan Clendennen, 30, of Hewitt, a member of the Scimitars Motorcycle Club.
Clendennen, who was freed on bond Tuesday, claims in the lawsuit that his business has suffered since his arrest and that he is in jeopardy of losing custody of the two children of whom he shares custody with his ex-wife. The lawsuit says his ex-wife is using his arrest as grounds to try to gain full custody of their children.
Clendennen has two other children with his wife, Sheree. His lawsuit says he has no criminal record, is a lifelong McLennan County resident, a former firefighter in Hewitt and Marlin and a “recreational motorcyclist.”