Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DA's war party hits the square in first skirmish

Abel Reyna - 'I finally got mad about it'

Sheriff, cops to sign pact to reveal confidential informants

Waco – Criminal cases are like milk, said the toughest prosecutor to come along in Six Shooter Junction in decades.

They don't get better with age, he told his “bosses,” the people who elected him to run the peoples' law firm.

“Time is the defendant's friend,” said the McLennan County Criminal District Attorney before a meeting of the Waco Tea Party held at a Heritage Square bistro within sight of City Hall and the Courthouse.

He started his rebuttal of criticism from the defense bar that his ways of disposing of criminal cases are so tough, he has needlessly filled the county's jails to overflowing and caused tremendous cost overruns.

People laughed at that statement.

Surrounded by key officials involved in the struggle to turn the situation around – Sheriff Parnell McNamara, County Commissioner Ben Perry, McLennan County Republican Chairman Ralph Patterson – he blurted out, “We've got guys in the back of patrol cars, saying 'Man, if I go down again, Reyna is going to give me life.'”

There was extended applause, even a few cheers.

It's true that sometimes it's as many as 3 months before his office obtains an indictment, and defendants often won't accept a plea bargain for many months while they languish in the county lockup.

“It's a whole lot easier to do your time in the county jail instead of TDC,” he pointed out. “If you get transferred down to Tennessee Colony, let's say, your mama ain't gonna come down there to see you.”

“People call me on my cell to complain, they say, 'I didn't hear about that...You keep it up.'”

And then he proceeded to tell the people what he tells those who call him on his cell number to complain.

And when he was finished, he gave them his cell number, told them to keep on asking the tough questions, answered a few questions – and called it a night, saying “That's what y'all elected me to do, and I'm doing it.”

Out front, on the sidewalk, he said, “I finally got mad. I finally got pissed off.”
On his arrival, asked if he knew that a local attorney, Jonathan Sibley, the son of veteran lobbyist and legislator David Sibley, is considering making a bid for District Attorney in 2014, he snorted.

Mr. Sibley recently appeared alongside two other defense attorneys in Commissioners Court to complain of limited access, too tough plea bargains, and Mr. Reyna's seeming refusal to sign visa applications for youthful illegal aliens from Mexico.

“What are they gonna use on me?” His voice took on the tones of derision. “Won't sign visas for illegal aliens...Got a Mexican DA in there...I got news for you. I pulled apps from 2003 that hadn't been signed. It wasn't a Mexican thing.”

Later, he explained to the crowd of nearly one hundred that a grant of a visa carries such social entitlements as food stamps, and that after 4 years, a person so graced is allowed to apply for citizenship, in spite of their illegal entry into the country.

“I think that is bad!” he shouted. The crowd reacted with more extended applause. It's not only bad, it is incomprehensible to Abel Reyna, District Attorney.

“I am not a kiosk or a satellite office for the immigration department.”

A prosecutor could lose his law license for offering to sign a visa application for an illegal alien in exchange for incriminating information. Should that come to light and the information prove to be bogus, the implications are obvious.

He will not make any such deals without knowing the names of the informants, something the Waco Police learned in court last week when he and his First Assistant Prosecutor elected to drop an organized crime indictment against 7 alleged offenders.

A detective refused to inform Michael Jarrett, the chief prosecutor, and approached the judge in an ex parte appeal to reverse his decision to allow the prosecution to know the name of the illegal informants.

He will meet with every Chief of Police and the Sheriff later this week and request an interlocal agreement that the names of any and all confidential informants be turned over to the prosecutors in all cases, with no exceptions.

“I'm not going to look at the front page of a paper and see my face and read a story about how I might lose my license to practice law because someone withheld some information.” He mentioned the case of Michael Morton, a Georgetown man who spent 26 years behind bars for the murder of his wife when exculpatory evidence to the contrary was on file in the District Attorney's office at the time.

There are three distinct categories of plea offers available in the offices of Abel Reyna, District Attorney.

First of all, “You shove a gun in someone's face, we're going to dance. You just bought yourself a ticket to the dance.”

  1. When a habitual offender is charged with his third offense, every prosecutor in his office is instructed to offer no less than 40 years, unless he or his top two assistants sign off on the bargain.

  1. All first degree felonies punishable by 15 years to life will receive an offer of no less than 15 years, unless he or his top two assistants sign off on the deal.

  1. In a case of burglary of a habitation, there are no deals. He and his staff will see you in court.

“I think that is the most intrusive case that can happen,” he said.

A software company is designing a system that will allow defense attorneys to sit at their desks and review entire case files electronically. Until then, all such files will be photocopied and given to the attorneys of record.

When it comes to defending the home under the doctrine of the Castle Law, which allows the use of deadly force to defend life and property, “Don't wait until you figure out who it is, just go ahead and defend yourself...If you are a licensed carrier, go ahead and pack your heat.

“I've seen some terrible crime scene photos, what happened to entire families...These days,” he shook his head. “...Just go ahead and defend yourself and worry about me and the law later.”


  1. I'm proud of the work you're doing Mr. Reyna!

  2. I love Abel Reyna and have liked him ever since I worked in the DAs officer here and he was a Defence Attorney. He's local, he's humble and he knows he law. Others may run against him, but my vote stays with him. He's cleared so much deadwood out of that office it's not funny.

  3. Sounds like a lot of bluster, bordering on demagoguery.