McLennan County DA Abel Reyna committed a criminal act, says AG
ignorance is strength; war is peace; hate is love. – George Orwell, 1984
Waco – Social Media has gone mainstream.
On Tuesday, the Attorney General of the State of Texas ruled that McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna violated the Texas Public Information Act by defying a determination of the Texas Attorney General that he should release certain details of an investigation into the character of bond reduction negotiations following the Twin Peaks massacre that claimed nine lives.
Withholding information rightfully belonging to the people is a B Misdemeanor, equal in severity to a first offense DWI, punishable by six months in the County Jail.
Assistant Attorney General Lance Kutnick determined that Reyna had four days to cure the violation by releasing the full text of a text message from defense attorney Brittney Lannen to Chief Prosecutor Michael Jarrett regarding a document floating around the County Jail during the days following the mass arrest of 177 persons charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
That deadline – arbitrary as it may be – has come and gone, with no reply from Reyna.
According to attorneys who angrily confronted Jarrett and the two Criminal District Court Judges, the document stipulates an agreement to a bond reduction in return for a hold harmless agreement not to file suit for wrongful arrest or violation of civil rights.
The DA’s office released only Jarrett’s reply, that it would be improper and thus illegal to do so.
A member of the Defense Bar on hearing this news denounced Reyna publicly in a press release. According to Joshua Tetens, “District Attorney Abel Reyna has eluded the public in regards to the incident at Twin Peaks where 177 people were arrested for the same crime. That elusiveness continued when $1 million bonds were set against every person, and continues with each day that Reyna refuses to release all dash camera and drop camera footage, which will show that many were innocent. Now we know Reyna blatantly violated the Public Information Act. When the chief law enforcement officer in the county ignores the law, he must answer for it.”
The Public Information Act, Section 552 of the Texas Government Code, provides no criminal enforcement authority to the Office of the Attorney General, only the responsibility for making determinations for government entities as to what is and is not excepted under the Act, and making decision as to what should be disclosed as a result of complaints by members of the public.
The question is, who is to file criminal charges against the chief law enforcement officer if he is unwilling to comply with statutory law, both criminal and civil?
The Legislature could provide enabling Legislation, an activist Govern could appoint a blue ribbon commission, or a Judge could appoint a Special Prosecutor.
According to public information activist R.S. Gates, author of the complaint, “This goes on every day throughout the State of Texas. But this is the first time anywhere that the situation has gone this far, where a public officials has defied a ruling of the Attorney General.”
There was a similar case in 2013, in which McLennan Sheriff Parnell McNamara’s office refused to release an affidavit of probable cause involving a warrant for search and arrest in which an officer seized evidence in a previous visit to the home of a man in whose bathtub a female guest expired due to a drug overdose.
Having released the information to The Legendary, Records Chief Tamma Willis then refused the same information to Gates, instead seeking an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office, at variance with an opinion held by U.S. Senator John Cornyn during his Administration as the Attorney General of the State of Texas.
At the time, Cornyn said that once public information is released to any member of the public, no matter if it involves a request from a media outlet or an ordinary citizen, there should be no requirement for an AG’s opinion for subsequent release.