An attorney out of Austin, Texas has filed motions to remove three McLennan County judges who have set and retained $1 million bonds on bikers arrested at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas. He argues that the judges have demonstrated bias and should be recused from making future rulings.
The lawyer, Adam Reposa, argues that the $1 million bonds are unreasonably oppressive.
A recusal motion has been filed asking that Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson be recused because he not only set $1 million bonds for 174 bikers, but added he was doing so to “send a message.”
According to the Waco Tribune, Peterson said “I think it is important to send a message… We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in, and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.”
Motions to remove Judges Matt Johnson and Ralph Strother have also been filed because they approved the $1 million bonds, and ordered no other judge could rule on motions to reduce the bonds.
Breitbart Texas talked to Houston-based lawyer Kent A. Schaffer, who has over 30 years of criminal law practice. He began his legal career working as an investigator for the legendary criminal defense lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes.
Schaffer called the bonds “absurd and unconstitutional.”
“There is no legal or logical basis to set such a high bond and the district court will end up reducing them once writs or habeas corpus are filed,” he predicted.
Schaffer continued, “Bond is supposed to guarantee the defendant’s appearance in court, but this judge set bonds based upon his desire to teach the defendants a lesson, and not out of some concern that they will not appear in court.”
“The hearing should not take place in front of the same judge who has already made comments that evidence his lack of respect for the constitution and the rule of law,” Schaffer told Breitbart Texas. “Sending a message is not one of the factors that is to be considered by the court in setting a bond.”
Breitbart Texas obtained the following statement from the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association:
The Waco situation of recent days raises serious concerns. It seems unprecedented that you have 170 individuals charged with the same or similar crimes and identical bail amounts set at 1 Million Dollars each. When you consider the constitutional prohibition against excessive bail as well as the requirement for probable cause prior to arresting an individual, the risks of abuse in the Waco case seem obvious.
The motions to recuse the judges have been sent to the Regional Administrative Judge, Billy Ray Stubblefield of Georgetown, Texas. Under Texas law, Judge Stubblefield can outright deny the motions, or appoint a judge to hear the recusal arguments.
Breitbart Texas talked to Randy Kubosh of Kubosh Bail Bonding in Houston, which includes Harris County, Texas, the third largest county in the United States. He called the $1 million bond “astronomical” and noted that the bail schedule in Harris County for a non-capital murder is $50,000.
Kubosh and his brothers have been in the business for over 20 years. Randy Kubosh said, “Bail is supposed to guarantee someone’s appearance in court, not punish them.”
“It appears that the judge intended to be punitive,” he added.
Breitbart Texas also talked to Joe Ash, of Ash Bail Bonds in Waco. He said that “$10,000 is mostly what we see on that charge (engaging in criminal activity) but I can also pull up at least 40 cases where it was $5,000.”
Ash has two clients who were involved in the Twin Peaks incident and it cost them $100,000 to bond out on a $1 million bond. He said his fee is typically 10 percent.
The bail bondsman said while a lot of the bikers might have been businessmen, “That’s a lot of money for anyone. It’s hard to do.”
He said that many of the bikers’ families had called him and said that their family member “was just there, but was not a member of any motorcycle group.”
He said that many of the jailed bikers “were waiting to see what happens at the initial bond reduction hearings. We will know more then.”
The Waco bondsman continued, “We will see if they reduce the bond some, do not reduce the bond… they will just have to wait to see.”
Bond reduction hearings have been set for June 5th and June 12th in Judges Matt Johnson and Ralph Strother’s courts. There are ten cases set to be heard.
Reposa says that keeping his clients in jail infringes upon their civil rights. He has filed emergency motions for release and a writ of habeas corpus.
One of Reposa’s clients is a mechanic from Hays County, who supports his disabled wife and their autistic son.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served the state as a prosecutor and as an associate judge. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2