Scores of Texas bik­ers still jailed

Three weeks af­ter fa­tal melee, more than 100 wait for bond re­duc­tions, charges.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Molly Hen­nessy-Fiske molly.hen­nessy-fiske @la­times.com Twit­ter: @mol­lyhf

WACO, Texas — Af­ter the shoot­ing and stab­bings and beat­ings were over, po­lice be­gan round­ing up bik­ers who had gath­ered that day at the Twin Peaks restau­rant here in cen­tral Texas. A fight had erupted be­tween ri­val mo­tor­cy­cle gangs, po­lice said, and in the end, nine bik­ers were killed and 18 in­jured.

Po­lice marched Matthew Clen­den­nen, with scores of other bik­ers, into the park­ing lot, where they were flex-cuffed, loaded on a city bus and driven to the con­ven­tion cen­ter for pro­cess­ing, then taken to jail.

Clen­den­nen texted his mother that it might take awhile be­fore he was re­leased. “I knew with the num­ber of peo­ple there that it would take a long time. But I was think­ing maybe later that night,” he said.

In­stead, two days af­ter the May 17 in­ci­dent, a jail mag­is­trate set bond for him and oth­ers at $1 mil­lion each.

“It didn’t make any sense,” Clen­den­nen, 30, said Thurs­day.

Of the 177 peo­ple ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the vi­o­lence, 143 re­main jailed, many on $1-mil­lion bond. At­tor­neys say it’s un­likely their clients can af­ford to post bail, and some face a month­long wait for bond-re­duc­tion hear­ings.

The ac­cused have been ar­raigned but not for­mally charged. Un­der Texas law, a grand jury has 90 days to in­dict those in cus­tody be­fore they are en­ti­tled to re­duced bonds.

Clen­den­nen and the other bik­ers were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with or­ga­nized crime, and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, said Waco Po­lice Sgt. W. Pa­trick Swanton.

“It’s un­prece­dented, this whole­sale roundup of peo­ple,” said Clen­den­nen’s Dal­las-based at­tor­ney, F. Clin­ton Bro­den. “It seems like some­thing out of ‘Casablanca’ — just round every­body up. You’re ar­rest­ing peo­ple for be­ing at the scene of a crime. It’s scary that this can hap­pen in Amer­ica.”

David Kairys, a long­time civil rights lawyer in Philadel­phia who suc­cess­fully chal­lenged po­lice ar­rest sweeps there, said the Twin Peaks cases raised con­cerns about rights vi­o­la­tions.

“It’s like say­ing, ‘Let’s ar­rest them all and sort it out later,’” he said, re­call­ing roundups of com­mu­nists and so­cial­ists in the “red scares” of the 1920s and 1950s and the chill­ing ef­fect such sweeps have on free­dom of speech and as­so­ci­a­tion.

“If they just picked peo­ple up be­cause they were present at the scene or had membership in some mo­tor­cy­cle groups, that does raise some civil rights is­sues,” he said.

Bro­den has filed a com­plaint with the State Com­mis­sion on Ju­di­cial Con­duct against the jus­tice of the peace who set Clen­den­nen’s bond. He also filed a fed­eral civil rights law­suit against the city of Waco, McLennan County, ar­rest­ing of­fi­cers and pros­e­cu­tors, al­leg­ing that his client was wrong- fully ar­rested and de­tained.

“It’s all wrong,” Clen­den­nen said of his case. “There’s noth­ing in any of this against me that’s in any way legal. We live in a coun­try where we’re told we have th­ese civil rights.”

Clen­den­nen said he was hav­ing lunch with friends on the Twin Peaks pa­tio when shoot­ing erupted. He ducked through a side door into the restau­rant.

“From there, I could hear the pop of gun­fire, and I took cover un­til po­lice came into the front of the restau­rant and or­dered us to the ground,” said Clen­den­nen, a land­scaper, fa­ther of four and for­mer fire­fighter from nearby He­witt who be­longs to the Scim­i­tars mo­tor­cy­cle club but does not have a crim­i­nal record.

In the com­plaints, he and his at­tor­ney say that McLennan County Jus­tice of the Peace Wal­ter “Pete” Peter­son gave bik­ers $1-mil­lion bonds “to send a mes­sage,” and that McLennan County Dist. Atty. Abe­lino “Abel” Reyna cre­ated “fill-inthe-blank” ar­rest war­rants that claimed the bik­ers were not co­op­er­at­ing and there­fore were not vic­tims.

Peter­son and Reyna made sim­i­lar com­ments to The Times af­ter the shoot­ings. Both de­clined com­ment Thurs­day, cit­ing the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

As for Clen­den­nen’s ar­rest, Bro­den said that “there’s got to be in­di­vid­ual prob­a­ble cause. They’ve got the tapes of the scene; there’s no rea­son they can’t be re­viewed to make de­ter­mi­na­tions. You just can’t keep by­standers locked up be­cause you don’t know who did the shoot­ing.”

He noted that bond-re­duc­tion hear­ings, sched­uled to begin Fri­day, stretched un­til late July.

Clen­den­nen said many of those he was jailed with could not af­ford to post bail. They are me­chan­ics, road crew and fac­tory work­ers, some with young fam­i­lies like his.

“You’ve got a bunch of sole providers in there where their whole life is pro­vid­ing for their fam­i­lies. There’s not a lot of peo­ple in there with the abil­ity to post, to hand over $10,000 or $25,000 to a bonds­man,” he said.

At least 47 of those ar­rested qual­i­fied as in­di­gent and have had at­tor­neys ap­pointed to rep­re­sent them, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal in­di­gent de­fense co­or­di­na­tor, Cathy Ed­wards.

Alan Bennett was ap­pointed to rep­re­sent a gro­cery store manager and fa­ther of four from Mid­loth­ian, Texas, who re­mained jailed on $1-mil­lion bond.

“My client has lost his job, he’s sep­a­rated from his wife and kids, and there’s no im­me­di­ate re­lief in sight for him,” Bennett said. “I tried to ne­go­ti­ate with the dis­trict at­tor­ney, who in­formed me he was will­ing to re­duce his bond to $250,000, which is re­ally no dif­fer­ent than a mil­lion dol­lars for many of us.”

Bennett said his client, Robert Bucy, 36, is a mem­ber of the Cos­sacks mo­tor­cy­cle club, whose feud with the Ban­di­dos is re­ported to have sparked the shoot­ing.

This week, Judge Ralph Strother de­fended lo­cal of­fi­cials’ han­dling of the cases, say­ing they could man­age the work­load and had no plans to bring in ad­di­tional judges.

He said forc­ing those jailed to wait un­til next month for bond-re­duc­tion hear­ings was not un­rea­son­able.

“That’s just part of the process and part of the sys­tem,” Strother said. “I liken this to the re­cent floods that we’ve had: When you have that much wa­ter in one place at one time, it takes awhile for things to re­turn to nor­mal.”

Clen­den­nen’s at­tor­ney ne­go­ti­ated to have his bond re­duced to $100,000, and his fam­ily chipped in to bail him out Tues­day, pay­ing $10,000 to a bonds­man. Po­lice still have his 2009 Har­ley.

Clen­den­nen said he im­me­di­ately re­turned to work this week be­fore he lost any more land­scap­ing cus­tomers, but he won­ders about the fu­ture.

“Who knows how long this will drag out un­til I can clear my name?” he asked.

His next court date is Aug. 6.

Rod Aydelotte As­so­ci­ated Press

A DEPUTY stands guard near a group of bik­ers in the park­ing lot of the Twin Peaks restau­rant in Waco, Texas, fol­low­ing a brawl and shootout May 17 that left nine dead. Of the 177 peo­ple ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the vi­o­lence, 143 re­main jailed, many on $1-mil­lion bond.

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