In skepticism, rightful skepticism, but even more, beyond skepticism, even if not full-blown conspiracy thinking, about the Twin Peaks restaurant shooting in Waco on May 17, I realize a lot of people are conflating the actions of the Waco Police Department at the time, and in its investigation afterward, with that of judicial and prosecutorial officials in McLennan County.
So, first, let's stipulate one thing.
Police do not set bond levels; judges do.
Police often push for the highest possible initial charges, and prosecutors may goose that more. However, a justice of the peace, the normal bail-setter, while he or she works off a "bail book," has the discretion of going lower — or higher — than the book recommends for charge X.
And, on about ALL crimes in McLennan County, it's a horror show, and one orchestrated by District Attorney Abel Reyna.
McLennan County has the fourth-highest incarceration level in the state. Per a blog by local lawyer Michelle Tuegel, referencing an article by The Dallas Morning News, the county has a higher incarceration rate than Putin's Russia.
So, this is about Abel Reyna. It's not about the Waco PD. Nor is it only about the bikers. They're just in the current crosshairs, and in great numbers.
And, it's not about the McLennan County Commissioners Court, either. Reyna, like the four commissioners and the county judge, is an elected official. If he can get judges to grant "hang em high" bail, and that overcrowds the jail, and strains the county budget, all the commissioners can do is make sure the county jail budget is big enough to avoid a failed state jail inspection.
And, trust me, the commissioners court there has complained, or at least raised eyebrows, before.
I agree totally that Justice of the Peace Pete Peterson spoke extralegally when he talked about using bonds to "send a message." I also agree that not scheduling some probable cause hearings until Aug. 6, and in conjunction with Reyna, is of dubious legality. However, I disagree that he was wrong in not holding individual bond hearings. The way I read the bail chapter of the code of criminal proceedings, I see nothing that specifies individual hearings are the only method allowed. The fact that it consistently uses "defendant" in the singular is proof of nothing.
That said, progress has been made on bond reduction hearings. Primarily as a result of that, about 60 percent of the original arrestees had bonded out as of June 10. Bonds for most of those who bonded out had been reduced from the original $1 million to $100,000, $50,000, $25,000, or even $10 or $15,000.
Related to some of this? First, bonds for "engaging in organized criminal activity" are, yes, usually lower. However, they're not usually associated with a presumed murder or even capital murder in the background. Second, here's some backgrounder from the state DA's association on issues related to trying OCA cases.
That said, a few arrestees who sought reduced bonds have not gotten them, including a few who still bonded out. That alone should indicate that while this was a dragnet arrest, albeit one done at least somewhat in necessity, it wasn't totally wrong.
And, as for some of them originally arrested, if you saw the Cossacks arriving and "your hearts sunk," why didn't you leave, or at least try to? After all, the "heart-sinker" saw this a full hour before the fight reportedly broke out. Oh, and the heart-sinker also allegedly was an open Bandidos supporter.
That, in turn, would be good reason to deny an anonymous Cossack's claim that they weren't trying to crash the meeting, rather that this was a false invitation to peace talks gone bad. And, since police confirm the first three dead were all Cossacks, I still think the informant's story rings largely true.
People who conspiratorize (my blog, my neologism) want to talk about what the police aren't telling us. While they have the legal right to say nothing, or to spout misinformation if not under oath, I'd rather talk more about what some of the bikers, and some of their lawyers, aren't telling us. Also contra some bikers' attorneys
As for what the police can tell us? They've already said that, due to the amount of fire and other things, ballistics tests could take months.
Finally, as for people who want to conspiratorize that this was a police turkey shoot — why didn't Waco PD bring 30 or 40 officers, not 14? Why didn't it kill 30 bikers, not the less than 9 (since it didn't kill all 9) than it actually did?
This is why rational, "slow" thinking takes time. This blog post didn't write itself in 10 minutes.
Thanks for reading.