We're guessing that, in the coming years, the Waco authorities' handling of the Twin Peaks biker gang shootout in May will become a textbook example of how not to handle an emergency situation.
The wholesale arrest of 170 bikers, under pro-forma charges, with astronomical bail ($1 million) has done wonders in the conspiracy-mongering department, but the Waco Police Department and the McLennan County District Attorney's Office have done little to instill a sense of justice. This creates a fact-vacuum that gives rise to rumors (or outright fabrications) like that in a press release issued May 30 by Houston lawyer Paul Looney.
Looney claimed that detained bikers seeking bond reductions "must sign a document stating the Waco police 'had the right to arrest the inmate and that he/she will not file a lawsuit against McLennan County and/or the City of Waco.'" The release showed up on websites of dubious repute and on Facebook, where nearly everything is true. So that just added more fuel to the batshit-bonfire. Looney gave no source for his claim. But he did claim that "it appears the public defenders office in McLennan County is involved in this scurrilous activity. I've never seen anything like the lawlessness that the authorities have perpetrated on these people and now to add insult to injury they are trying to cover their own tracks in exchange for bond."
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna quickly denied the allegation.
"It is totally false, ridiculous, and sad that someone would make such baseless allegations," Reyna stated in an email to the Houston Press.
Then, on June 1, Looney issued a clarifying release, blaming the whole thing on Waco attorney Brittany Lannen:
"It has been determined the District Attorney’s office was not involved in yesterday’s attempt to get defendants to waive their rights of litigation in exchange for bonds. 'That entire debacle was orchestrated by McLennan County private attorney Brittany Lannen,' Looney said. 'Her behavior in this matter is bizarre, unprofessional, unethical and unappreciated by all of the attorneys representing defendants, by the McLennan County District Attorneys office, and by the McLennan County court staff. Her behavior will be reported to the State Bar of Texas for investigation this week.'"
We sought comment from Lannen, but we instead heard from her law partner at DLW Law, Matthew Wright, who denied the allegation, saying that his firm only heard about the supposed waiver agreements from Looney's press release.
"We have no idea where he got it from," Wright told us. His firm also issued this statement: "Contrary to what has been posted on social media, Attorney Lannen did not create the 'law suit waiver' idea to break the 'biker bond log jam.' No client of DLW Law has signed such a waiver and no such waiver will ever be presented by DLW Law. We are unaware of any other defendants who have signed such a waiver. No one from this office has seen this waiver and has no knowledge as to who drafted it and whether it even exists."
Wright also told us in an email that the reduced bonds his firm obtained for its clients "were signed by the DA at approximately 5:00 pm on Friday, May 29. Our clients already had reduced bonds before the 'waiver' caper was ever mentioned. DLW Law contacted Mr. Looney over the weekend to ask if his firm would like to do a joint press statement because both firms represent clients from the same motorcycle club. It appears that our overture provided an opening for an attack on local defense attorneys. In a previous statement Mr. Looney referenced the 'scurrilous' behavior of the McLennan County Public Defender’s Office…. No such entity exists."
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But Galveston attorney Susan Criss, who represents several of the bikers, told us in an email that an assistant McLennan County district attorney received texts about the waiver idea from Lannen, and that the ADA read the texts to Criss, her colleague, Looney, and two McLennan County District Court judges. Yikes.
We've reached out to Wright for a response and will update if we hear back.
Update: We've heard from Wright, who denied Criss' allegations, telling us that "there is no text that discusses a 'waiver of any kind'" between Lannen and the ADA, Michael Jarrett. "At no time did she text him or discuss with him any 'waiver.'" He said that the text correspondence between Lannen and Jarrett involved "a press statement that our clients were planning to make."
Wright also invited us to view a printout of the text exchange — an offer he's made to other media outlets as well. (He said he could not send copies of the exchange due to client confidentiality considerations).