In the screenplay for the old movie about Watergate, All The President’s Men, a world weary whistle blower code named Deep Throat tells an eager, young reporter named Bob Woodward to “follow the money.”
Of course, it never happened in real life. The line was an invention of screenwriter William Goldman. Nevertheless, the command to “follow the money” became a credo for just about anybody who went into journalism after 1976. As Joel Bellman, who used to write for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner back when El Lay was still a two paper town, wrote:
“If a couple of brave reporters and their courageous news organization can uncover a monstrous criminal conspiracy in our political system and successfully drive the rascals out of the highest elective office in the land, rescuing democracy and proving The System works, then why – 40 years later – is The System more paralyzed, polarized, sclerotic and delegitimized by the electorate across the ideological spectrum? Rather than restoring public confidence, the aftermath of the Watergate scandal has seen it demolished. After Woodstein, what fresh-faced journalistic aspirant wouldn’t want to become an investigative reporter? All you needed was enough attitude, aggressiveness, and a simple credo: ‘follow the money.’”
In the same think piece, Bellman calls Watergate, “Our catastrophic extinction event: It shattered trust in elected officials, destroyed confidence in government, and deeply undermined the fundamental legitimacy of a public sector empowered to levy taxes and undertake projects or activities on behalf of, or deliver vital services to, the general public.”
Slab Of Pork Belly
The so-called “Battle of Twin Peaks” may have been Waco, Texas’ “catastrophic extinction event.” Everything in America and everything in Texas looks tiny when you compare everything to what Texas and America were 40 years ago. Currently the role of Richard Nixon is being performed by a mouth breathing slab of pork belly named Abelino Reyna. The Washington Post has become the Waco Tribune-Herald. And the investigators are now a couple of big city lawyers named Clint Broden and Abigail Anastasio. Anastasio represents a member of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club named Ray Nelson. Broden represents a Scimitar named Matt Clendennen. Brodin speaks for Clendennen in both Clendennen’s criminal case and in a federal lawsuit against Reyna and two other Dukes of Hazzard rejects for false arrest.
The legal aftermath of whatever you think happened in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco 494 days ago has devolved into something stupider than Bachelor in Paradise, only without the show’s sex, charm or production values. The short version is, Reyna arrested and ruined very many innocent people with his almost magical powers of accusation. All of them would like to have their lives back. None of them can begin to do that until they are allowed the opportunity to prove their innocence at trial. Reyna refuses to try any of them. Brodin and Anastasio have been trying to disqualify Reyna from the case for 128 days so all the criminal and civil cases may finally proceed.
And yet, still nothing moves. It is tempting to call Waco an Ionesco farce but to do so would flatter Waco.
Among the arguments Anastasio and Brodin have applied to Reyna is the provable fact that it was all his idea to arrest all these people in the first place. The Texas Rangers wanted to let most of them go. Local police were prepared to let most of them go. Reyna insisted on arresting them for the opinions they wore on their tee shirts. Technically, it isn’t actually illegal to express your opinion and technically it is illegal for a prosecutor to be bring charges based on what he has learned from watching episodes of Sons of Anarchy. Also, since he is being sued for false arrest by multiple defendants, Reyna has a financial stake in delaying the criminal cases as long as possible.
The big rock in this stream of justice is a clown judge named Matt Johnson who is Reyna’s former law partner. Johnson holds control of all the criminal cases and he has ruled against virtually every defense motion.
For example, Anastasio entered her motion in May. Johnson has given Reyna until September 30 to submit a brief explaining why he should not be recused. And then Johnson, whose lips get sore when he has to read a lot, must read it and consider it before he can finally rule in Reyna’s favor. And then Brodin and Anastasio can appeal. And so on. And then eventually somebody at the Waco paper, or the Dallas Morning News or the Houston Chronicle may notice the “shattered trust in elected officials, destroyed confidence in government, and” the public’s deeply undermined trust “of a public sector empowered to levy taxes and undertake projects or activities on behalf of, or deliver vital services to, the general public.” Maybe somebody will notice after a few of Reyna’s victims finally commit suicide and after Entertainment Tonight runs the story first.
Yesterday, in an attempt to hammer a hole through the endless stone wall, Brodin filed a 35 page motion demanding to know who was going to pay the people who are suing Reyna for false arrest and false imprisonment when – theoretically there will be a when – they finally get their day in court. Brodin thinks Reyna’s financial interest in the civil cases is inseparable from the way he has handled the criminal cases.
Broden wrote: “The fact that Mr. Reyna rushed approximately 154 indictments through the grand jury (at a rate of less than five-minutes per indictment) and then admitted that he would not be prepared to try any of the cases for at least a year appears to be indicative that his actions in this case are best explained by financial and political interests.”
Waco has become a broken record.
Brodin asked Reyna about the money during an August 1 hearing.
Brodin – I asked you a question of whether to your knowledge will you be indemnified whether it’s one case, one judgment against you, or 100 judgments?
Reyna – I don’t know that. You’ve asked me that. I don’t know that.
R. You need to talk to them. And if you ask me again, I’m going to give you the same answer.
B. Need to talk to?
R. You would have to talk to (an insurance company known as) TAC. Talk to my attorneys. My understanding you’ve got the attorney here – it’s discoverable. All of that information is discoverable.
Ask My Lawyer
So Brodin sent interrogatories to Reyna’s lawyers.
Waco is an unprecedented case. But based on previous judgments for false arrest and false imprisonment, and considering the flagrancy of Reyna’s conduct, it is very conservatively estimable that Reyna could be on the hook for $15 million. It is already established that McLennan County, which envelopes Waco, will indemnify Reyna for the first $500,000 of his legal expenses and liability. When Brodin asked Reyna who would be paying the money, Reyna told Brodin to ask his lawyers. “Well, again, you’ll have to talk to my attorneys, and they’ll clarify for you,” he said over and over.
But when Brodin asked Reyna’s lawyer and a McLennan County official who might know where the money was coming from, they typically replied like this: “Bacon the pig-faced lawyer objects to this interrogatory as set forth above, and asserts that it seeks information protected by the attorney-client and attorney-work product privileges. Bacon the pig-faced lawyer esquire further seeks a protective order relieving him of the obligation to respond to this interrogatory in any respect.”
The motion filed yesterday seeks to compel Reyna’s entourage to answer questions about the money. Barring that, Brodin wants to put Reyna back on the witness stand and grill him some more.
Reyne replied to the motion in an interview with television station KWTX. “To disqualify a district attorney from a case simply because he or she is sued by a defendant defies all logic and common sense,” Reyna said. “Probable cause has been established by arrest, the indictment was issued, and we are preparing for trial in accordance with the law.”
“My goal is simple and clear,” Reyna lied. “I took an oath to see that Justice was done in each and every case presented before me. I will follow that oath regardless of the size of the case or the frivolous allegations lodged against me.”
Even Nixon would have laughed at this guy.