ALLEGATIONS FLY AS DA’S STAFF DUCKS PUBLIC INFO REQUESTS FOR TEXT MESSAGE OF OFFERS FOR LOWER BAIL IN RETURN FOR HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENTS NOT TO SUE
Rick Rousseau, a Harker Heights attorney with long experience as a Staff JAG Officer at Ft. Hood, and his partner Susan Criss, a former District Judge from Galveston, insist a member of the Waco defense bar and “some person at the jail” proffered hold harmless agreements in exchange for an offer of reduced bond
WACO – Adept observers of courtroom drama hold that the real actions which settle the outcome of a criminal trial take place long before an indictment is returned or a jury is selected.
Spectators, families, and friends are getting a detailed look at the long, slow pitchers’ duel of battling attorneys and highly defensive prosecutors, as judges deny bail reduction for some of the 177 defendants in a mass arrest of bikers which took place on May 17 in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks “breastaurant.” Clearly, in most of those cases, the entire gallery, including court officials are waiting for the civil rights actions in federal court. In all but a few cases, that’s where the issues will be settled in suits filed against police officials, elected Constitutional Officers, and the City of Waco, County of McLennan.
$1 MILLION BONDS UNHEARD OF BY DEFENSE LAWYERS
By setting bond at $1 million, Justice of the Peace Pete Peterson, a non-lawyer with decades of experience as a State Trooper, said he intended to “send a message” to bikers everywhere that this university town in the heart of Texas will not tolerate the kind of violence that led to the gunshot deaths of 9, wounding of 18, and the mass arrests. It’s still not clear who shot whom – with what – cops, bikers, whomever. No ballistics reports are available and the surveillance video – displayed to representatives of the Associated Press – has been impounded as evidence.
Every defense attorney questioned responds with the enthusiastic denial of ever hearing of a $1 million bond set in a criminal case – even murder cases of the smoking gun variety. All agree that the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure preclude sending a message or any such thing by setting an extremely high amount.
But there is the lingering matter of the allegation that a member of the defense bar, Brittany Lannen, who has recently served as a special prosecutor in the DWI cases of a couple who work at Baylor University, approached other attorneys with a proposed proffer of a hold harmless agreement not to sue city and county or public officials in return for a reduced bond. Houston barrister Paul Looney began the hue and cry on-line on a Sunday preceding a meeting between he, Criminal District Judges Ralph T. Strother and Matt Johnson, the lead prosecutor, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Jarrett, and two law partners who are representing four defendants. All have denied that any such notion was ever considered after Jarrett declared it would not be proper. But the question remains, are the records of the ex parte communications public – or not. The Open Records Division of the Attorney General’s office is pondering the thorny question, the paperwork extending to 40 pages of correspondence with bloody claw marks all over it. Rousseau recalled his experience at a recent press conference:
BUBBA’S BOND $1 MILLION OVER SOMETHING HE DIDN’T SEE
Jorge “Bubba” Salinas is a young Marine who endured two tours of duty in Afghanistan, came home to Bell County, and joined a small chapter of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club. He was busted in the mass arrest for something his attorney Brian Bouffard of Ft. Worth insists he “didn’t even see.”
Nevertheless, he must wait for weeks before he can present his case for bond reduction before a Criminal District Judge. The truth, according to the lawyer, is that within 48 hours, a Magistrate could have reviewed the affidavit of warrantless arrest in which vague allegations of probable cause are directed at he – and everyone else so charged – for engaging in organized criminal activity, a conspiratorial felony offense of the first degree carrying a possible sentence of from 5 years confinement to 99 years. The slim Jim allegations state that Bubba came to Waco from Bell County to engage in gang violence, wearing a patch on his clothing which the legal instrument alleges belongs to a criminal street gang. Attorneys have pointed out that there is no such notation to be found in the Department of Public Safety advisory that so designates the Cossacks Motorcycle Club.
Instead of reconsideration of his bond within 48 hours by Jail Magistrate Virgil Bain, who allegedly signed his order of commitment to the McLennan County Jail, he must wait until a date in July to review the probable cause and an August setting to address the possibility of bail reduction.
In any case, according to co-defendant and fellow alleged conspirator Matthew Clendennen, authorities at the McLennan County Jail made no effort to obtain intake information as to employment history, how long the accused have resided at their present addresses, family, friends, children, or other ties to the community that would ameliorate the prospects of flight risk if released on reduced bond.
DALLAS LAWYER ALLEGES EX PARTE CONFAB WITH JUDGE
F. Clinton Broden has requested assistance from the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas at San Antonio. He alleges there is a massive conspiracy to deprive his client Matthew Clendennen – and others so charged – of his civil rights under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
He alleges in a civil suit filed against the City of Waco, Police Chief Brent Stroman, McLennan County Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna, Sheriff Parnell McNamara, and county constitutional officers.
They have denied him the freedom of association and self expression guaranteed by the First Amendment; a seizure of his person without individualized allegations of probable cause constitutes a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights guaranteeing freedom from unreasonable search and seizure; a declaration by DA Reyna that those arrested were not cooperating violates his right to remain silent; the suit alleges he has been denied a speedy trial as asserted by the Sixth Amendment; the Eighth Amendment guarantee against excessive bail constitutes a cruel and unusual circumstance used to punish Clendennen; the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of due process of law has in any case been thereby violated, according to the lawsuit filed in his behalf in the Waco Division of the U.S. District Court.
He furthermore alleged that an ex parte communication between the Magistrate and the DA’s staff advising a delayed setting for probable cause and bond reduction hearings later in the summer is a violation of the Texas Canon of Judicial Ethics.