A hearing to determine if McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna will be disqualified from prosecuting Twin Peaks biker cases resumes Friday amid accusations that Reyna was not truthful at a hearing in August and continues to deflect questions about who is paying his legal fees for civil lawsuits.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court recessed a hearing in August and instructed attorneys for biker Matthew Clendennen and Ray Nelson to confer with Reyna and his attorney to answer basic questions concerning Reyna’s insurance coverage in civil rights lawsuits.
The attorneys for the two bikers, Clint Broden and Abigail Anastasio, are seeking to disqualify Reyna from the cases, asserting he has a financial conflict of interest because he is a named defendant in 10 federal civil rights lawsuits filed in Austin by bikers arrested after the Twin Peaks shootout.
At the hearing in August, Reyna either said he was unsure of his exact coverage or deferred questions to his attorney, Thomas Brandt, of Dallas. Brandt, when questioned at the hearing, claimed attorney-client privilege and would not answer.
That prompted Broden to file a motion asking Johnson to compel Reyna to answer the questions, which include whether any insurance coverage Reyna has will cover the costs of defense, compensatory damages and punitive damages, and whether McLennan County commissioners have agreed to commit taxpayer funds to cover any judgments or defense costs that exceed indemnification coverage.
The motion claims that Reyna and Brandt asserted attorney-client and attorney-work product privileges as reasons they would not answer the questions posed during and after the hearing about Reyna’s potential financial exposure in the civil suit.
After the motion to compel was filed, Reyna issued a press release on his Facebook page that charged the motion was without merit and an attempt at delay.
“I answered each and every question asked of me regarding civil lawsuits, my defense to those lawsuits and my potential exposure, no matter how remote. To claim otherwise is false, misleading and defamatory,” Reyna’s statement said.
Reyna did not return a phone message left at his office Thursday.
Broden challenged Reyna’s truthfulness Thursday, continuing to say his questions have not been answered. Broden and Anastasio have subpoenaed all four county commissioners, County Administrator Dustin Chapman and County Judge Scott Felton to testify at Friday’s hearing.
“Mr. Reyna has said in the past that he wants transparency, but his actions demonstrate obfuscation,” Broden said. “Mr. Reyna has said in the past that he fully answered questions regarding his insurance coverage, yet the transcript of his testimony says exactly the opposite. Mr. Reyna has said he is against delay in these cases, but he has opposed every single speedy trial request that has been filed in these cases.
“Mr. Reyna’s actions speak volumes and now the question is going to be whether the county commissioners join him in the effort to avoid providing answers to simple questions regarding insurance coverage for the civil rights cases naming Abelino Reyna as a defendant.”
In a motion filed Thursday, Broden continued to question Reyna’s veracity. At the Aug. 8 hearing, Reyna testified that he carried one cellphone with him when he arrived on the scene of the May 17, 2015, deadly shootout. He said he spoke by phone to former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, who was out of state, about how authorities would proceed with the mass arrest of 177 bikers.
Review of phone records
“He further testified that he believed Chief Stroman called him to authorize the mass arrests,” Broden’s motion says. “Nevertheless, a review of the phone records for (Reyna’s phone number) reveal that there were no phone calls (outgoing or incoming) from telephone number . . . to the phone Chief Stroman testified he was using that day.”
Broden also says Reyna’s phone records make it appear that Reyna called Brandt’s law firm “only two days after the incident” and apparently had two phone conversations with Brandt’s law partner, Steve Henninger, totaling more than an hour.
“Given this was long before Mr. Reyna was being sued in this matter, it is not clear under what capacity the law firm of Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt and Kutchin was operating during these conversations with Mr. Reyna unless it was immediately obvious that Mr. Reyna had liability for his actions taken two days previous,” Broden contends in his motion.