The defense attorney for Twin Peaks biker Jorge Salinas has demanded formal sanctions against McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and asked to expedite the hearing on the State's attempt Monday to recuse Judge Ralph Strother from the trial.
On Monday, a hearing was supposed to have been held to determine whether Reyna -- not Strother -- should be removed from the trials of two of the bikers, Jorge Salinas and Billy McRee, who were arrested after the 2015 Waco shootout. Defense attorneys representing bikers have previously argued Reyna was a cocaine-user, who was under FBI investigation and had used "fill-in-the-name" affidavits to arrest 177 people -- including their clients. For his part, Reyna has denied the FBI investigation, the alleged drug use and any wrongdoing.
But, before the hearing could focus on Reyna, the DA's office preemptively filed a motion to quash the hearing altogether -- arguing prosecutors did not have enough time to prepare. When Strother decided the hearing should continue anyway, the DA's office threw a curve ball and filed a motion to recuse Strother. Judge Strother said he would not step down voluntarily. But, that move still stopped the hearing in its tracks because it meant an outside judge would have to be appointed to hear the recusal motions. To the defense, this was all just a stalling tactic to prevent anyone from testifying against Reyna at the hearing.
"The State’s recusal motion was filed only seconds after Judge Strother denied the State’s continuance motion, which the State apparently felt Judge Strother was capable of hearing, so long as he ruled in their favor," Salinas' attorney Brian Bouffard said in an email. "When he didn't, only then did they attack him."
Bouffard pointed to examples of when prosecutors had previously fought to keep Strother when it suited them. For instance, in August 2017, three bikers tried to recuse Judge Strother. Back then, prosecutor Michael Jarrett opposed those motions -- arguing to keep Strother on the case. Now, the tables have turned.
"...their motion was filed for nakedly political purposes – in the desperate hope that no further information regarding the official corruption of the elected district attorney, Abel Reyna, would come to light before the date of the Republican primary election," Bouffard wrote in the email. "The State's actions are akin to that of a toddler who doesn't get his way. And what do you know? They managed to delay YET AGAIN taking the stand to testify under oath and under penalty of perjury for lying. It is now going on three years since this incident with only one trial that was a hair's-breadth away from an acquittal. Enough is enough."
Bouffard has filed his own motion arguing the State is asking for Strother's removal in bad faith and for the purpose of delaying the trial.
"Put simply, when the State could not get its delay of the disqualification hearing in one way, it immediately turned to another way to delay the hearing," Bouffard's motion said.
Channel 6 reached out to Mr. Reyna's office for comment Tuesday morning. A representative for Mr. Reyna responded with a statement from prosecutor Michael Jarrett. The entire statement is below.
“As a prosecutor, it is my responsibility to see that justice is done. A request for sanctions for upholding that oath is outlandish. The District Attorney's Office has the utmost respect for Judge Ralph Strother and has, on several occasions, vigorously fought motions to recuse him. However, as officers of the court, we must respect the decisions of Judge Morgan and Judge Mills who determined that an ordinary person could perceive a bias on the part of Judge Strother. Judge Strother is a jurist of the highest integrity, but the cloud created by previous rulings put the State in the position of seeking recusal in order to see that the defendants receive a fair trial. Should Judge Strother remain on the cases, we will welcome the opportunity to present the merits of our cases in front of him.”