McLennan County District Attorney Abelino Reyna finally responded to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Waco defendant Matt Clendennen yesterday.
The suit was filed on November 17, 2015 and is one of nine similar suits filed that day or the next by defendants charged with “Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity with the Intent to Commit or Conspire to Commit Murder, Capital Murder, or Aggravated Assault” in the aftermath of what Clendennen is calling the “Twin Peaks Incident” and Reyna is calling “The Battle at Twin Peaks.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Dallas attorney Don Tittle or Dallas attorney Clint Broden. Clendennen has hired Broden. The suits charge that Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Detective Manuel Chavez, defendants yet to be named and Reyna conspired together to unlawfully arrest the plaintiffs after the Twin Peaks Ambush. And Reyna, Stroman, Chavez and various actors in the United States Department of Justice clearly did that. In order to save or promote careers or to avoid personal embarrassment all of the above conspired together to subvert and mock the fundamental laws of the United States of America. The question is, really, so what?
The Long Stall
British Prime Minister William Gladstone, paraphrasing William Penn, famously argued that “justice delayed is justice denied,” and the events in Waco prove that. There has been no justice in Waco. Only injustice. The egg has been broken. It cannot be put back together again. The principal tools of the Waco tyrants have been delay, denial and counterattack. And because the people of the United States are easily bored and easily led astray by what now passes for journalism they do not give a damn about Waco. Waco might as well be Mars.
An eccentric and egotistical federal judge in Austin named Sam Sparks gave Reyna 147 days to file his reply to the lawsuit. In the meantime, Reyna and the other defendants have formally requested that the case be further delayed indefinitely and moved from Austin to Waco while the charges hover the heads of the defendants like a rusty ax. Yesterday Reyna advised Sparks that if the case is not moved to the scene of the crime and postponed indefinitely it should be dismissed entirely because, if one reads his motion to dismiss correctly, Reyna won an election and he is just stupid, not malicious. And even if he did act “maliciously” Reyna argues, citing a 1976 Supreme Court case called Imbler v. Pachtman, he enjoys absolute immunity from civil liability for actions that violate a defendant’s constitutional rights.
Our Holy Prosecutors
Imbler has been reaffirmed many times. It is, as former prosecutor and Pace Law School professor Ben Gershman has argued, a decision that “appears in retrospect to have been a gratuitous experiment in judicial administration, that not only failed to protect the judicial process but skewed the balance of power in the criminal justice system more heavily toward prosecutors. Moreover, by removing a deterrent to abuse of power by prosecutors, Imbler encouraged dishonest prosecutors to hit below the belt and discouraged honest prosecutors from doing the right thing.”
Reyna is represented in this civil suit by a couple of hired guns named Thomas P. Brandt and Stephen D. Henninger. Brandt bears a shocking resemblance to the cartoon character Alfred E. Neuman and he is most famous in Texas for milking a case over candy canes for eleven years. His face, his manner and his resume make Brandt the perfect lawyer to represent the Tyrant of Waco.
Working against Reyna, his esteemed pettifogger aside, is what might strike a few people as the self evident importance of this case. What, after all, are courts of law supposed to be? An end to justice, as children and even household pets understand justice, or a racket for politicians?
Imbler v. Brady
Waco goes on and on. NPR did a fatuous piece about the Twin Peaks Ambush just the other day. The Atlantic published a few words on the matter just this morning. So far Reyna has prevailed by doubling down; piling one execrable injustice on top of another. The stakes in this case are very high. Reyna wins more than the Golden State Warriors. And this is starting to look like something that might, maybe end up in the United States Supreme Court in another couple of years because the motion Reyna filed yesterday represents a fundamental conflict in American law.
Imbler, which gives petty, local politicians the right to be tyrants stands in contrast to another Supreme Court decision titled Brady v. Maryland. In Brady, the Supremes ruled that withholding exculpatory evidence violates the due process clause. The problem with Brady, is that prosecutors can simply reply “so what.”
The issue has been around for awhile. Fifteen years ago, when she was still on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union, Wendy Kaminer called the sort of privilege Reyna is now claiming an “abdication of authority by courts that were designed to defend due process and protect individuals against government excesses.”
Somewhere, sometime in the legal process of the various Waco cases – there are now about 200 civil and criminal cases associated with the Twin Peaks Ambush – some panel of judges will have to decide if it is more important to defend tyrants like Reyna or the Constitution.
The law is an ass. Motions like the one Reyna filed yesterday prove that. Waco burned the Constitution of the United States and for the immediate future there seems to be no possible judicial punishment for that crime. The law says prosecutors don’t have to obey the law. Most citizens don’t seem to know that or care. Maybe soon they will.