Last week, the two corrupt Waco cops currently being sued for false arrest in 13 civil rights cases in federal court in Austin begged District Court Judge Sam Sparks to freeze the case until all the state criminal cases associated with the Twin Peaks biker brawl on May 17, 2015 are completed.
The two corrupt Waco cops are retiring Police Chief Brent Stroman and Detective Manuel Chavez. They, along with McLennan County District Attorney Abelino Reyna and “John Doe, an employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety,” are being sued for false arrest. And last week their lawyers, Charlie and Mike from a general practice firm in a Waco shopping center named Haley and Olsen, argued “that a false arrest claim should be stayed until resolution of the criminal charges, as until that time it may be difficult to determine the relation between the two.”
At Judge Sparks direction, Charlie and Mike and Don Tittle, the Dallas lawyer who represents eight of the 13 complainants, filed briefs to explain why the case should proceed or pause and what the implications of those two obvious possibilities might be. At first glance, the most interesting thing about Charlie and Mike’s briefs is that they did not use the word “justice” once. Not once.
Round And Round
The deadly and preventable confrontation in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant was never about justice. It was about building federal cases against the Bandidos, the Cossacks and the Aryan Circle. The false arrests and imprisonments and the official public pronouncements and the legal legerdemain that followed the brawl weren’t intended to further justice. If Charlie or Mike ever uttered the word “justice” they must have laughed.
Charlie and Mike’s argument to the judge is circular. How can any mere mortal prove that the Waco victims were falsely arrested until they are tried for the crime for which they were arrested in the first place? And how can they be tried until sometime after, as Abelino Reyna put it, the Waco Police Department completes its forensic analysis of “cellular phone data;” and until sometime after the “social media analysis (in excess of 100,000 pages of communications via social media made by defendants and suspects related to this matter)” that will take an “unknown amount of time to complete” is completed.
In a passage that epitomizes both their prose style and their ignorance of the Latin phrase circulus in probando, Charlie and Mike write “This includes, but is not limited to, assertions that probable cause was lacking because Defendants knew or should have known that Plaintiffs were not part of a criminal street gang and that Defendants knew or should have known that plaintiffs did not conspire to commit a crime – both elements of the crime charged; along with a global assertion that probable cause was lacking because Defendants knew or should have known that Plaintiffs were not engaging in criminal activity. Obviously, a favorable ruling for the Plaintiffs by this Court on any of these matters would impugn the validity of a criminal conviction.”
In his brief Tittle pointed out that: “A party to the civil suit has almost complete control over the criminal cases at issue. District Attorney Reyna operated as a police officer during the initial phases of the case, and was directly involved in the determination of probable cause. On that basis he is being sued, and because of his non-prosecutorial involvement in the initial proceedings does not have immunity…. In this unique case, the timing of the criminal trials lies solely in the hands of Defendant Reyna, who has a personal financial interest in these…cases. This is the ultimate conflict of interest. Defendant Reyna has the sole discretion to speed up the preparation and litigation of the criminal cases, or increase the delay that has existed for more than a year thus far. Additional delay works in Defendant Reyna’s personal best interest because witnesses become more difficult to find and memory fades, which increases the Plaintiffs’ burden of proof in these cases. Notwithstanding the obvious financial interest Reyna has in the outcome of every single criminal case, he has yet to recuse himself.”
Suing City Hall
There is more at stake here. It will not just be Reyna, Stroman, Chavez and John Doe who make these complainant’s millionaires. Ultimately Waco, McLennan County and the state of Texas will have to pay the bill and there is a two year statute of limitations associated with that.
In order to put their hands in the city, county or state’s pockets, the Waco victims must file something called a “Monell Claim.” The claim is named for a court case titled Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services and that decision provides the one exception to the common law rule that you can’t sue city hall. Under Monell, you can sue city hall, or the county or the state, if Reyna, Stroman, Chavez and John Doe acted according to official policy; or according to a long standing practice; or if the city, county or state failed to take reasonable steps to forbid the defendants from framing the complainants; or if the governments allowed scoundrels like Reyna, Chavez, Stroman and John Doe to make up the rules as they went along.
“Plaintiffs must be allowed to conduct discovery with respect to Monell liability issues or their right to bring suit against a municipality whose unconstitutional policy led to their false arrests will be lost forever,” Tittle wrote. “Plaintiffs cannot simply plead claims against the City of Waco or the County of McLennan in a conclusory manner and then hope to develop specific facts to support these theories once a stay is lifted (presumably years down the road). Specifically, in order to assert a Monell claim, Plaintiffs have to provide plausible, non-conclusory evidence of an official or unofficial policy of a widespread pattern or practice of unconstitutional violations.”
The rub here is statute of limitations on false arrest claims. If the current and future complainants are to sue the city, county and state, they have to do it in the next 11 months. And before they can sue city hall, they must have “evidence of an official or unofficial policy of a widespread pattern or practice of unconstitutional violations.” That’s what Charlie and Mike are really trying to stop. And it is now up to Judge Sparks to decide whether Waco, McLennan County and the state of Texas should be allowed to get away with it.