Abelino “Abel” Reyna, the McLennan County District Attorney who has transformed the investigation of the Twin Peaks massacre in Waco last May 17 into the Spanish Inquisition, has a long official history of stupidity, ignorance of the law and demagoguery. When Waco’s inevitable $10 billion legal bill comes due sometime in the next four or five years people will probably point to Reyna as the reason why.
Reyna defeated Democrat John Segrest as District Attorney in November 2010 and was sworn in on January 3, 2011. His father is Felipe Reyna who also served as McLennan County District Attorney and as an Appeals Court Judge.
Abel Reyna formed a natural alliance with the Waco Police Department, a political force in and of itself in Waco, which objected to Segrest’s 50 percent prosecution rate. Some criminologists see a prosecution rate of about 50 percent as an indication of efficiency. Reyna claimed county residents were “skeptical of the judicial system” and he promised his office would “be aggressive…and we will be efficient.”
Reyna is not a criminologist. He is a politician and his first official act was to hire an additional crimes against children prosecutor. The new prosecutor’s name was Greg Davis and he quickly became embroiled in a corruption scandal at his old job.
Tougher Plea Deals
Reyna immediately and fatuously began sabotaging the plea deal system with much tougher proffers. Some of his critics pointed out that his “tough-on-crime policies have contributed to a rise in the jail population and the associated costs of feeding and housing inmates. Those policies prevent cases from being resolved quickly, increasing the time defendants stay in jail awaiting trial.” The net effect of Reyna’s “toughness” was overflowing jails and trial dockets. Defendants had no incentive to take bad plea deals. The resulting drain on the county budget may explain some of the baffling actions Waco took after the massacre, including the seizure of vehicles.
He was nominated by one satirist as the “stupidest politician in America” after he refused to obey a Texas law called Chapter 64 that would require DNA testing to exonerate prisoners who claimed they had been wrongly convicted.
“Technically you have any and every defendant who ever pled to a crime or was convicted of a crime potentially could file a post-conviction DNA motion,” Reyna said. “What concerns me most as District Attorney is that there is absolutely nothing in Chapter 64 with regard to victims and their families.”
Reyna has been particularly strident about prosecuting cases of driving while intoxicated. Well, not so much prosecuting as imprisoning defendants accused of DWI. Which led to the curious case of Damion Wayne Evans. Evans was arrested after police pulled him over and claimed to have seen him chewing something. The police assumed he was chewing a pill. But no one ever tested Evans to see if there were actually drugs in his system. Then Reyna’s “efficient” office forgot about him. “I will accept responsibility for the error in my office, and my apologies go to Mr. Evans,” Reyna said 83 days later. “Though it doesn’t change what happened to him, the only thing I can do is work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
. Reyna has also been enthusiastic about prosecuting mentally disabled offenders. Halfway through 2012, for example, McLennan County had three mentally challenged inmates in custody that cost the taxpayers $6,750 in court fees that wouldn’t have applied if Reyna had simply released the men to the care of a psychiatric facility. One of them died in jail. Another man with an IQ of 55 broke into a doughnut shop because he wanted a doughnut. The doughnut shop owner didn’t want him prosecuted, but Reyna refused to drop the charges. The donut theief’s attorney, Michelle Tuegel told the Waco Tribune-Herald “The system is not accounting for people who have this kind of impairment. These people do not need to be committed or taken out of the placements they have. I realize if they have violent tendencies, that is one thing. But this guy has done great in his placement (a group home in Temple) for over a year now and he has never shown any signs of violent behavior.”
In late 2012, Reyna refused to comply with a new Texas law that protected illegal immigrants who assist authorities with the investigation or prosecution of crimes. A 13-year-old girl who had been the victim of a child molester for years helped police convict the man in return for the promise of free counseling in the United States. The delay in deportation needed Reyna’s approval. He refused to give it. When asked about the case, Reyna refused to comment.