While I was in Waco, I went to a Mexican restaurant named Ninfa’s. The name is a reference to both a Roman garden of nymphs and a kind of parrot. And I should have known better. An assistant district attorney named Michael Jarrett recommended the place to me.
Jarrett will be fun to write about. He will be fun to remember. He is empty inside like one of T.S. Eliots’ Hollow Men. He is one of those lawyers. His head is full of straw. He is the baby Caligula. All at once he is a heartless monster and eager to be liked, like a child. In quick order, he tries to banter with the defense attorney as if they are singles at a party. He tries to make the defendant laugh. He wants the defendant, Jake Carrizal, to like him and forgive him.. And then he calls a witness to the stand solely to mock defense attorney Casie Gotro’s unsuccessful attempt to unmask the horrifying, official conspiracy that created the Twin Peaks Mass Murder. Then he mocks the defendant, wondering aloud “What kind of grown man has to put on a costume to be a man.” He says this while wearing one of his many grey suits and one of his many white shirts and one of his many invisible ties.
During a preliminary hearing, when one of the defense attorneys in the case, Judge Susan Criss from Galveston, spoke to him disdainfully he asked her, “Did I do something wrong?” Jarrett’s words are “quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass.”
But I digress. Jarrett recommended Ninfa’s to me before I had time to see who he is, what Waco is, what the whole case is.
It had been a long, lonely week. Ninfa’s is three big rooms and I was conspicuous in my isolation. I ordered a chimichanga and a Margarita. A chimichanga is a kind of deep-fried burrito. I enjoyed the drink. I don’t know how you screw up a Margarita even if you want to. Then a busboy brought me an empanada which is a kind of Spanish meat pie that looks like half the moon. The busboy didn’t speak English. All my Spanish is either about anger or sex or food. Eventually I got the attention of a waiter who went and found my waiter. Minutes passed before I could tell him, “You know, my chimichanga looks remarkably like an empanada.”
“Yeah that’s what our chimichangas look like here.”
“Well, you know where I live, our chimichangas don’t look like this. We call these things empanadas.”
“Where are you from?”
“Oh yeah. Out there chimichangas look like deep fried burritos.”
He pointed at my plate. “That’s what our chimichangas look like in Waco. Would you like another margarita?”
“Sure. Why the hell not.”
Halfway through that margarita I decided my dinner at Ninfa’s was a metaphor for the entire Twin Peaks case. I don’t know if everything in Waco is a bush league waiter telling lies that he thinks other people have to believe because nobody would ever dare stab him in the face with a fork. But that certainly summarizes the wait staff at Ninfa’s and the prosecution in the trial of Christopher Jacob Carrizal.
Jarrett, who wants it all, and his histrionic boss Abelino Reyna, Amanda Dillon and Brody Burks unabashedly stacked the deck against Carrizal for two and half years. Together they conspired for more than 30 months to withhold evidence that would have proved Carrizal was innocent. They had a sympathetic judge, They had millions to prepare and fly in experts and follow Carrizal around the whole time as if he was ISIS. They had the jury they wanted and they got away with lying to them. They instructed and encouraged prosecution witnesses to lie to the jury. They lied about the victims. They lied about the would-be assassins. They did all this as if they were on trial for their lives, as if their futures were at stake. They took three weeks to present their case. And they still lost.
About eight, or nine jurors in Waco saved America.
If the prosecutors had won they would have established an alibi for arresting 177 innocent people. Bill Whitaker, the editorialist for the Waco Tribune-Herald would have gloated on his front page. If the prosecutors had won, McLennan County and the state of Texas would have been off the hook for more than a billion dollars in damages for false arrest. If they had won, federal prosecutors could have proceeded with the ridiculous lie that the Bandidos Motorcycle Club had instigated a “biker war” against the Cossacks Motorcycle Club. If they had won, justice would have lost. But eight or nine ordinary people who probably go to Ninfa’s when they have had a tough week and think they need a treat stopped them.
In the end, Jake Carrizal’s innocence was so clear cut that the best the prosecutors could do was a hung jury. Almost immediately, District Attorney Reyna got more bad news.
More Bad News
The same day Carrizal’s case was declared a mistrial a damning affidavit by Jarrett’s predecessor, Gregory S. Davis, began circulating. Davis quit the district attorney’s office in August 2014, nine months before the Twin Peaks Mass Murder. The affidavit portrays Reyna as a cocaine addict who fixed criminal cases for political contributors and cronies.
“During my employment in the McLennan. County District Attorney’s. Office,” Davis writes, “ I became aware of several cases in which the elected District Attorney, Abel Reyna, arranged for his campaign supporters, persons associated with campaign supporters, and friends to receive preferential treatment. I believe that he did so for political and/or personal gain. In at least three cases I believe Reyna effectively dismissed valid criminal cases of his campaign supporters and friends by instructing subordinates to refuse to accept their cases for prosecution.”
“.Iarrett.and l met with Reyna to voice our concerns. When we confronted him about his actions, Reyna said words to the effect of, ‘Never get in my fucking business again.’ In December 2013, Michael Jarrett and I met with Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann to discuss our concerns about Reyna’s actions.”
“In August 2014, I met with FBI Agent Dan Burst regarding a public corruption investigation of Reyna…. It is my understanding that Michael Jarrett, Julissa West and Amanda Dillon have also met and/or spoken with Agent Burst in connection with the FBI’s public corruption investigation of Reyna.”
“It is my understanding that the FBI’s public corruption investigation of Reyna’s prosecutorial decisions is ongoing. It is my understanding that Reyna has hired and/or consulted with Waco attorney, Bill Johnston regarding the ongoing FBI public corruption investigation. In August 2014, Michael Jarrett told me that he purchased another cellphone so that he could covertly communicate with Agent Burst without Reyna learning that he was speaking with federal agents behind his back.”
“Approximately two to three months after the Twin Peaks incident, I received a call from Michael Jarrett. At one point, when the conversation turned to what had happened at Twin Peaks, Jarrett told me that the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office was responsible for having all of the bikers arrested despite the fact that the police simply wanted to question the bikers, get their information and then release them while they (the police) conducted an investigation. Jarrett told me that he (Jarrett) told Assistant Police Chief Gentsch that the police ‘were going to .arrest them all’ and they were not going to be permitted to release the bikers.”
One salacious detail in Davis’ statement refers to “Abel’s possible drug use and associates – detailed his marked change in behavior and information provided by Mike’s CI about the Salty Dog.” That sentence refers to an alleged incident in which Reyna snorted a line of cocaine in public off a counter at the Salty Dog Sports Bar And Grill in Waco.
The part I thought was most interesting in Greg Davis’ statement was the part about Michael Jarrett’s duplicity. He probably told Reyna jokes the day he picked up his FBI cellphone. He is a man for all sides. He cannot begin to imagine that anyone would ever want to stab him in the face with a fork. He cannot begin to imagine the way he makes other men feel simply by being near him, looking at him, listening to him.
I don’t want to go back to Waco. I want to go to a place called La Playita where the view of the ocean comes with fish tacos that look like fish tacos and a chimichanga that is a kind of deep friend burrito. But I know I am probably going to have to go back. So yesterday I was near the 26th Street lifeguard tower in Manhattan Beach.
This is how Michael Jarrett makes me feel.
It was foggy and deserted except for the line of surfers out at the break. The tankers out in the Catalina Channel blinked in and out of view. It had rained a few days before so there was a sign that said, “Pollution Hazard! Do Not Swim!” I went in anyway. And went I came out, for the first time in two weeks, I felt clean.