Update 12/03/2017: It has come to our attention that some sources did not feel sufficiently credited for their contributions to this piece. It was never our intent to claim credit for others' work. We mainly link to archive.is because we have had issues recently with linked articles regarding District Attorney Abel Reyna mysteriously vanishing from the web. To be clear: this piece would not have been possible without the original reporting done by Jim Parks of Radio Legendary, Tommy Witherspoon, Clint Broden, and numerous confidential sources lurking around the intersection of Washington and 5th.
In the cult sci-fi classic Cube (1997), strangers from all walks of life find themselves imprisoned in an elaborate maze of death traps that sear, slice, and suffocate them to death as they try to escape. None of them know how they got there or even where there is. As the grizzly riddle unfolds, they discover that each of them played a small role in creating the instrument of their demise. No one ever told the doctor, the math student, the cop, or the architect what horror was being wrought by their mundane daily routine. They just showed up, clocked in, did their jobs and kept their heads down like good Americans steeped in the protestant work ethic.
One might call that a failure of perspective. The clues were there all along, but they were ignored. Why? Because it's dangerous to start connecting dots and drawing conclusions. You may discover that the Thing you spend your days theorizing, designing, building, justifying, and defending is not what you had imagined. You put a lot of effort into the piece you fashioned-- the precise budget, the flawless report, the cogent brief, the elegant code, the artful blueprint. Do you really want to find out that your work was just another brushstroke in someone else's Hellscape?
As so, well-meaning citizens go to the polls each primary season and vote for bad men. Oiled-up attorneys who care more about winning than justice. Dime store cowboys who play to the cameras with fake drawls and shiny guns they can't actually shoot. Judge Hathorne disciples who take others' freedom with innuendo and forced tears in lieu of actual evidence. Swaggering skirtchasers whose flagrant indiscretions compromise all who stray into their orbit.
That's the man in the corner office right now: A hypocrite social climber who couldn't seal his own bony closet with a nautical mile of police tape. And he's just filed for reelection in the 2018 Republican Primary.
The following exposé is the culmination of the work this site began in 2013 when we first tried to warn you about the man you had elected. Very little of it is original reporting, as we're mostly taking bits of information provided by informants and combining it with pieces uncovered by other journalists (mainly Tommy Witherspoon of the Waco Tribune-Herald and Jim Parks of Radio Legendary) whom, for one reason or another, could not weave the whole tapestry. The result is an alarming portrait of ruthless ambition, paranoia and malfeasance; a man too dangerous to wield the power he has been given.
So here it is. Abel Reyna: The Feature-Length Narrative. Email it. Tweet it. Facebook it. And make sure every lawyer, every biker, and every voter in the State of Texas gets to read it, because he will never stop on his own. There are no brakes on this powertrip. Judge, senator, governor: how far will you let him go?
And how long until you are the one trapped in his machine?
Abel Reyna Either IS or WAS Being Investigated by the FBI
This site recently reported on the information about Reyna that came out when Dallas attorney Clint Broden published an affidavit by Reyna's former First Assistant, Greg Davis, in support of a motion for discovery. The affidavit and subsequent court filings allege that Reyna is under criminal investigation for public corruption and may be abusing drugs and alcohol.
Reyna says the investigation is "fake news."
"Patently, 100% false", eh? Just after Reyna finished his bitch-slapped rappin' on Facebook, this 2013 email was released:
Daniel Brust and Fred Rhea are FBI agents. At the time this email was sent, Sherry Kingrey was a Waco PD detective and Kevin Fisk was a badged arson investigator with the Waco Fire Marshal's Office. Those three law enforcement officers were providing Special Agent Brust with intelligence on public corruption being committed by someone. But who was the target?
The Davis affidavit answers that question (items 10 and 13 on pages 7 and 8):
In August 2014, I met with FBI Agent Dan Burst [sic] regarding a public corruption investigation of [Abel] Reyna.
It is my understanding that Reyna has hired and/or consulted with Waco attorney, Bill Johnston, regarding the ongoing FBI public corruption investigation.
AbelReyna.com has been hearing backchannel tips about this for years, and it's unlikely that Davis is making it up. If so, he would be risking his license to practice law and criminal charges for perjury. Furthermore, Michael Jarrett has made no public statements denying any of this. Nor have Amanda Dillon, Bill Johnston, Sherry Kingrey, Fred Rhea, Kevin Fisk, or Dan Brust.
In fact, the only person still claiming that Abel Reyna wasn't investigated for public corruption is Abel Reyna.
In light of the evidence, plus the fact that he would be the target of the investigation and thus would have a motive to conceal it, do you find Reyna's denial credible?
Abel Reyna Illegally Buries Evidence in Criminal Trials
In Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the Supreme Court of the United States held that withholding evidence in a criminal prosecution violates due process "where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment." Brady has never been overturned. In fact, this holding has been clarified in subsequent cases to include evidence that could impeach the credibility of a witness. In 2013, the State of Texas built on Brady by passing the Michael Morton Act, named for a defendant who was wrongly convicted and imprisoned for 25 years because prosecutors withheld evidence that would have exonerated him. The bill had widespread bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry.
In short, Texas law says that the government must disclose all evidence to the defense "as soon as is practicable," and the legal debate on this point has ended. And yet, on multiple occasions in State of Texas vs. Christopher "Bandido Jake" Carrizal (the first Twin Peaks trial), the proceedings were held up as defense attorney Casie Gotro learned of new evidence that was being withheld by District Attorney Abel Reyna.
- Nov. 1: Discovery issue delays 1st Twin Peaks trial in its 4th week
- Nov. 3: More discovery issues could cause additional delays in Carrizal trial
- Nov. 6: More discovery disputes bog down Carrizal trial
This video from KCEN TV depicts Gotro explaining to the court after the state had rested its case that, despite weeks of on-record statements by the District Attorney's Office that all evidence had been turned over, she'd just been given audio recordings of Reyna and his assistants Michael Jarrett and Amanda Dillon speaking to a witness who flatly contradicted the state's theory of the case.
Credible anonymous leaks to AbelReyna.com suggest that Reyna even tried to sequester police evidence with Waco PD and the City Attorney's Office so that it could be hidden from defense counsel. This allegation notwithstanding, the State's known conduct in the Carrizal trial is prima facie prosecutorial misconduct that could cost Tuco, Dead Eye, and Elsa their bar cards. The absurdity is amplified by the fact that Reyna desperately wanted to try Bandido Jake before any other biker and pulled every string to do so. But it's nothing new to Waco defense attorneys. Reyna and his assistants are notorious for turning over evidence during trial. In some cases it even comes after the trial has ended: a government product delivered neatly alongside a fresh criminal conviction. Even the milquetoast Bill Whitaker noticed the problem:
The Nov. 10 mistrial only confirmed the whispered doubts of legal eagles in and out of the McLennan County Courthouse. Instead of prosecutorial genius and skill, the public witnessed a strange element of disorganization astonishing for a team that had many months to prepare for a high-profile trial of national significance. The fireworks mainly involved eruptions by diminutive, peppery defense counsel Casie Gotro over one piece of evidence after another that prosecutors by law should have provided her long before but didn’t.
It would have been one thing if Reyna's dirty tricks had convicted Bandido Jake. But make no mistake: every time Reyna got busted and the trial stalled, the time clock was still running and you were still paying the bill. Overtime for the Sheriff's Department alone cost McLennan County $563,000. That's not even getting into the costs for Waco Police department, expert witnesses, defense investigators, and compensation for the jurors. Some estimate the total costs to be upwards of $2 million. The County Commissioners Court is whistling past the graveyard while admitting that Reyna has put them on state welfare:
Commissioners said the county is still in good shape financially, despite having spent half its countywide contingency in the first two months of the fiscal year.
After approving about $440,000 for the sheriff’s office two weeks ago to pay overtime related to the trial, commissioners approved $122,000 more for the same purpose Tuesday from the countywide contingency line item. There is $532,000 left of the original $1,016,000 in the countywide contingency line item, County Auditor Stan Chambers said. The county’s fiscal year 2018 started Oct. 1.
The county has spent about $1 million on Twin Peaks-related expenses so far and been reimbursed for $268,000 by the state.
What does Reyna have to show for all of that money? A hung jury that wasn't even close to convicting Bandido Jake on a single charge.
AR's response to this costly failure-- which he began when he intervened in a capital murder investigation and ordered police to arrest the witnesses-- is to do it all over again.. Reyna has learned nothing, and insists that he will retry Bandido Jake in April.
Does this sound like a man acting in pursuit of justice; or a more personal motive, perhaps to promote his own political career and deflect from his own legal problems?
He [Clint Broden] also said Reyna and others are defendants in civil rights lawsuits filed by 100 of the bikers arrested that day and Reyna should be disqualified because he has a financial interest in getting convictions in the cases and not necessarily seeking justice.
Broden also said witnesses, including prosecutor Amanda Dillon, have reported that Reyna has said the Twin Peaks cases could get him elected attorney general or “lead to the governor’s mansion,” adding to Broden's claim that Reyna has established a trend of making decisions for political gain.
That's the best explanation as to why Reyna was willing to blow at least a million dollars on one trial, the same amount of money his friends set as bond for over 170 mostly innocent witnesses to a crime. That's why, despite the million-dollar civil rights lawsuits that he will likely lose, he would do it all over again. Reyna knows the county is on the hook for whatever judgments are found against him for acts committed as a public official (about $1 million per case!). But he does not care how much it costs you, because in AR's mind, his office is a blank check to self-promote at your expense.
Abel Reyna Invents Fake Crimes, Buries Real Crimes by his His Friends and Donors
Like the majority of bikers that day, Matt Clendennen didn't come to Twin Peaks expecting a bloodbath.
A well-spoken Baylor graduate whose father still works for the Green and Gold, Matt didn't know the parking lot was swarming with undercover cops on a surveillance mission. He had no way of knowing that the Federal Government and the Texas Department of Public Safety were conducting an undercover operation targetting the Bandidos. And he certainly didn't know that a small handful of the bikers on the patio had come to pick a fight.
When the shots rang out, Matt has always maintained that he did what any able civillian in their right mind would do: he ran for cover. Watch the video of his press conference in 2015:
If Reyna and Waco PD had any real video evidence of Matt committing a crime, they'd have paraded it on Channel 10 by this point. Nevertheless, like 176 other bikers that day, Matt was incarcerated on an identical affidavit for warrantless arrest and spent the next two weeks locked up under a shocking $1 million bond. As a small business owner, this hit him, his wife and young children like a hurricane.
But that wasn't enough for Abel Reyna. He'd backed himself into a corner. If he failed to indict Matt and the other support club members, he'd be setting himself up for a judgment in a federal civil rights suit. So Reyna indicted Matt, along with the majority of those arrested that day, with a captive Grand Jury spending about five minutes on each case. This was done on the novel theory that just by being present, each biker present who was a member of any of the involved clubs was guilty of engaging in organized crime even if their only act was to run from the fight.
Compare Reyna's draconian approach in Twin Peaks to the kid-gloves treatment of his friends and donors as described by Greg Davis.
In at least three cases I helieve Reyna effectively dismissed valid criminal cases of his campaign supporters and friends by instructing subordinates to refuse to accept their cases for prosecution.
Following the March 2013 meeting with Reyna, I believe he... used the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTIP) to effectively dismiss cases that did not by any objective standards deserve pre-trial diversion. For example, Reyna ordered staff members to place Amity Harrell in PTIP even though she was a convicted felon and PTIP was intended for misdemeanor offenders. Harrell's father, Jim Densman, contributed to Reyna's re-election campaign after his daughter's placement in PTIP.
This appears to be Dwayne Densman, who recently passed away. Would you be surprised to learn that Reyna was a pallbearer, along with Sammy Citrano, another Waco bigwig that Reyna pulled strings for?
I also know that Reyna wrote at least one letter requesting a full pardon for a campaign supporter's relative. For example, even though the DA's office had a policy of opposing early parole for offenders, Reyna wrote a letter in December 2013 requesting a full pardon for Sammy Citrano's nephew, Kevin Chirafis, who had been convicted of the felony offense of Manufacture and Delivery of a Controlled Substance in Brazos County.
Unlike Reyna's last reelection campaign, there is now a detailed public record of the corruption that drove Greg Davis to resign in 2014, when he told the newspaper:
First, I lost all confidence in Abel Reyna's leadership. And Secondly, I wanted no part of a two-tiered justice system in which a favored few received special, preferential treatment. It's wrong and contrary to the basic belief that I've always held as a prosecutor that a person's connections and status in the community should not determine how they're treated in the criminal justice system.
It seems that Julissa West, who was Reyna's secretary for years before and after he was elected, may know something about this. Sources told AbelReyna.com that she recently gave a 45 minute interview to the Waco Trib about facts to which she is willing to testify. They only printed one paragraph of it:
After the hearing, West said in an interview that she thought she was going to testify about her discussions with the FBI agent and how Reyna asked her to pull the cases of at least 50 friends and supporters so he could dismiss them outright or have special prosecutors appointed who would dismiss them.
Is that how we define justice in McLennan County, where the criminal dockets are backlogged by overprosecution and the jails are crowded with people who haven't even gone to trial?
Abel Reyna Dismisses Legitimate Cases Against Major Criminals
It gets worse. In addition to nuking criminal charges for his pals, Reyna also dropped good prosecutions against some extremely dangerous people. Longtime readers of AbelReyna.com will recall the abrupt dismissal of slam-dunk grand theft auto charges against an Aryan Brotherhood of Texas-linked crew. According to former detective Sherry Kingrey, this group was receiving leaked information from more than one member of Reyna's staff. There is some evidence that members of this same gang may have set the 2012 trailer fire that killed Ashley Dawn Rogers and her children. That case was never investigated to its conclusion.
One arson investigator fought to do so: Lt. Kevin Fisk (who would later became Bandido Jake's defense investigator). But Fisk was forced off of the case before he could complete his investigation. There is substantial evidence that, at the behest of other officials, Reyna wrote a letter to the fire chief stating that despite Fisk's stellar record, Reyna would no longer take Fisk's cases to the grand jury1. Fisk was suspended on suspicious mental health grounds and ultimately forced into early retirement despite being fully cleared by a civil service review board.
Reyna claims he dropped the charges against the known associates of a notoriously violent street gang because Detective Kingrey wouldn't tell him the names of her informants, when Kingrey believed his office was leaking information back to the same criminals. In his defense, Reyna was quick to invoke Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and its progeny, which require that the state disclose material evidence (including confidential informants) to the defense, something Reyna would be unable to do if Waco PD withheld their identities.
But if that was his only reason, why would Reyna blacklist an investigator who was building a capital murder case against some of the same offenders?
Now, fast-forward four years to Twin Peaks, where Reyna disregarded Brady throughout the first trial. Reyna stated that he knew the Feds had additional evidence involving Twin Peaks that would not be given to State prosecutors until after the Federal RICO cases were completed, but he prosecuted Bandido Jake anyway. Don't the same laws that apply to Nazi car thieves also apply to bikers? Why lenience for one but dirty pool for the other? Why does Brady v. Maryland protect the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas but not the Bandidos?
There are more recent questionable dismissals. In 2016, Reyna dropped a drug trafficking case brought by veteran Waco PD narcotics detectives David Starr and Clare Crook. In the course of the arrests, they seized two kilos of cocaine. Reyna claimed the detectives were getting tips from confidential informants and omitting this fact from their search warrant applications. Starr and Crook were placed on administrative leave while Waco PD Internal Affairs and the Texas Rangers investigated Starr to see if he had lied about using CI's.
If the cops falsified affidavits for search warrants, Reyna couldn't be blamed for doing the right thing. When cops break the law to make an arrest, the remedy is to dismiss the case. However, Starr was never formally disciplined for his actions, which means the infraction was so minor that he was either given a minimal punishment such as a private reprimand, or he was found not to have done anything wrong at all. Another source told the Waco Trib that both investigations cleared Starr.
But by that point, Reyna had already dismissed or offered lenient plea deals in over a dozen of Starr's cases while the investigations were pending. Was this really done in the "interest of justice," as Reyna likes to say? Or was this bureaucratic retaliation against a good cop who busted the wrong crook, as Lt. Fisk believes happened to him?
What About the Drugs?
As for the two kilos of cocaine from the arrest that began the inquiry, they were tested by the DPS lab and confirmed to be cocaine. Then they were transferred to Reyna's office in February 2015, three weeks before he dismissed the case.
Multiple law enforcement sources with narcotics investigation experience have pointed this out to AbelReyna.com, explaining that this is not the typical procedure for handling tens of thousands of dollars worth of drug evidence. What was the cocaine from a dismissed case doing at Reyna's office and where did it go next?
No one knows. But this does draw attention to a scarcely-reported allegation in Clint Broden's response to Reyna's motion to quash some recent subpoenas:
Local Attorney: This person would testify to meetings with federal agents regarding allegations that Reyna arranged to have cases dismissed for friends and campaign contributors and that Reyna was delivered cocaine in the period around his actions in relation to the Twin Peaks case.
This isn't the first time a suggestion like this has come up. Former First Assistant Greg Davis claims he discussed in an FBI interview the possibility of Reyna using drugs, noting his marked change in behavior and the two shady characters "Dre" and "JJ" rumoured to be his drug dealers. The affidavit indicates Julissa West may know more about this than has been reported.
While this is not proof, it is evidence. The sworn testimony of respected attorneys and longtime associates weighs more than mere barfly gossip. The well-circulated rumours about AR's personal life can no longer be easily dismissed.
As of this writing, Reyna hasn't even denied them publicly. What message does it send when the most powerful law enforcement figure in McLennan County will not even defend himself against allegations that he abuses illegal drugs? Why has he not explained what happened to the cocaine?
Abel Reyna Breaks the Law to Cover Up the Truth
In at least one case, the Attorney General of Texas found AR's office to be in violation of the Public Information Act. Although no one appears willing to prosecute him, this is technically a Class B misdemeanor and a jailable offense. The first conviction in the state for violating the PIA in 2003 dealt a fine and a suspended jail sentence to a superintendent who concealed school financial records. How much more serious is it when a District Attorney does the same with information regarding criminal proceedings?
Even worse, a Court of Inquiry has now been convened to investigate whether Abel Reyna committed perjury in a hearing related to Twin Peaks. Reyna testified that he instructed Detective Manuel Chavez to be certain he could truthfully swear to to every allegation made in the identical affidavits for warrantless arrest that were written by Reyna's office.
Detective Chavez testified that he didn't even speak to Reyna that night. One of them is obviously lying. This is a bigger problem than it might seem. Typically, affidavits for warrantless arrest are written by a police officer who, legally speaking, is swearing that he witnessed a person committing a crime. The affidavit is then presented to a judge or magistrate who usually sets the bond.
Things went differently at Twin Peaks. Detective Chavez was not even on the scene when the fight took place. Reyna himself ordered the mass arrest of the witnesses, overruling the judgment of all the police commanders on the scene who, up to that point, had only detained the bikers while they conducted a capital murder investigation. But Reyna had a problem. Not wanting to contradict their chain of command, most of the police who had seen the shootout refused to swear that they had witnessed all 177 bikers committing the offense of Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity. Detective Chavez was one of the few cops who apparently didn't have a problem doing so, despite not even being there to see the alleged offenses. So Reyna had the District Attorney's office write the identical affidavits and Detective Chavez signed his name to them, swearing the contents therein to be true.
- Defendant Chavez has acknowledged that he read the template affidavit and inserted names of individuals based on a list he was provided. Chavez has testified in at least one hearing that he did not, in fact, possess personal knowledge of all the assertions made in the affidavit. He has further testified to a lack of knowledge concerning individual arrestees’ involvement in the incident.
See the problem here? It seems that Detective Chavez swore to facts in the affidavit that he could not possibly have witnessed.
Defendant Chavez swore to 177 template affidavits en masse – that is, he swore under oath that the stack before him was true and correct – and is the sole affiant for all 177 affidavits. Chavez swore under oath he had personal knowledge of the information contained therein, even though he did not. Having read the affidavit, Defendant Chavez knew he did not have personal knowledge as to the particular facts of any one person, including Plaintiff. Chavez knew the affidavit was open-ended, false, and misleading in a material manner, yet he presented it to Magistrate Peterson for the purpose of obtaining arrest warrants, including Plaintiff’s.
Detective Chavez did this in support of Reyna's crazy plan to prosecute everyone. And now, Reyna is betraying Chavez by implying that he didn't know Chavez was elsewhere when the fight took place, and that Chavez deceived him by falsely swearing to the affidavits that his own office had written!
This is part of the grounds for the federal civil rights lawsuits alleging illegal arrests. If the affiant, Detective Chavez, lied in the arrest affidavits about what he witnessed, the arrests were improper and Waco PD could be liable for damages. If the District Attorney knew this and allowed Chavez to sign them anyway, then he was suborning perjury thus bringing civil and criminal liability on himself.
One or more law enforcement officials were lying under oath that night, trying to make the best of a nasty legal problem that Abel Reyna had created by trying to play policeman. While it's bad form for the brass to admit it, Twin Peaks was the latest in a longstanding failure of trust between the DA and the real cops.
A few months after Twin Peaks, Waco PD Chief Brent Stroman abruptly resigned even though he was on vacation at the time of the killings. Perhaps Stroman deserves criticism for not standing up to Reyna, who called his cellphone and promised that he could convict everyone wearing a patch if only Stroman would issue an order for mass arrests. But does Reyna even care that a cop lost his career for trusting him? Will Detective Chavez be next?
The bottom line is that none of this would have happened if our District Attorney possessed the moral stature, discretion and humility expected of his office. Where other community leaders sometimes failed to do their best and paid the price, Abel Reyna has consistently shown us his worst and gotten away with it every time.
Take the Keys
There you have it: an evening view of our most powerful county official. Have you had enough yet?
He hasn't. Through a haze of privilege he sees a night still young. Well, the bar tab is on you. Last call is an hour away but now the self-imagined rockstar is screamin' loaded, throwing haymakers with his right while his is left up the waitress' skirt. At what point do you call a cab and halt the red-eyed rampage of a ginned-up egomaniac?
Even if you don't accept all of the conclusions above, wouldn't even one of the them be enough to disqualify one for the office of District Attorney?
- Criminal investigations by federal law enforcement
- Violations of black-letter discovery law in criminal proceedings
- Inventing crimes to lock up the powerless
- Refusing to prosecute well-connected criminals
- Persistent, credible rumours of illegal drug abuse
- Lying to the court
- Creating divisions between police and prosecutors
- Inviting the derision of the legal community nationwide
The great thing about this country and this state is that you have the opportunity to make a difference. You can restore the honor of a hallowed public office and return the usurper to the private sector where he can no longer besmirch the State of Texas. The hard work was done long ago. Great men fought and bled, cut down by musket ball and bayonet so that you could be free of corrupt family dynasties with dictatorial ambitions.
For you, it's much easier. You can start a revolution with a ballot.
The last day to register to vote is Monday, February 5, 2018. Click here to register. Texas is an open primary state and you do not need to be a member of any political party to vote in a primary election, even if you are asked such by a party volunteer at the door.
Honest government is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but you must vote in the Republican Primary to defeat Abel Reyna. Write-ins and Democractic Candidates do not win in McLennan County. If you're a Democrat who wants a change, you're in good company with many Republicans who see the truth. Vote in the Republican Primary even if you never have and never will again.
Election Day is March 6th, but don't wait until then. Early voting begins Tuesday, February 20th and ends Friday, March 2nd, the day Texas celebrates its independence from the military dictatorship in Mexico City. Vote early in the Republican Primary Election and declare your independence from Abel Reyna.
1: While Reyna wasn't the only person trying to shut Lt. Fisk up, it appears he had a weighty hand in it. Reyna denies writing the letter, but Public Information Act requests for it have been denied on grounds that it is part of a confidential personnel file. In a roundabout way, the City has confirmed the letter's existence by refusing to release it. Also, there is recorded audio of Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum explaining to Fisk that he's not allowed to give him the letter. Original recording by Lt. Fisk as played in an interview with Jim Parks of Radio Legendary.