Hearing set to address JP’s potential recusal from biker case
July 22, 2015, 2:56 pm
By OLIVIA MESSER
A recusal hearing to address a complaint against McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson related to the May 17 biker shooting at Twin Peaks will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday and be presided over by a Bell County judge, legal documents show.
The complaint, filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct by Dallas attorney Clinton Broden, alleges Peterson violated several judicial ethical canons when he set the initial $1 million bonds for the 177 jailed bikers.
Broden has said his complaint is based on comments Peterson made to the Tribune-Herald after the shooting.
“I think it is important to send a message,” Peterson said at the time. “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.”
In Broden’s complaint, filed June 2, he alleges Peterson’s “public comments would cause persons to believe that they could not get a fair examining trial before Peterson.”
In the document, he says it is “completely unlawful” to set bonds to “send a message” and that Peterson’s quotes “indicate that he sets bonds out of bias against people who visit Waco.”
The complaint alleges Peterson set the bonds for the bikers without any individual consideration for the facts of the individual cases and that Peterson set them in group hearings without considering the rules for establishing bonds under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The complaint also charges that Peterson, a retired state trooper, “inappropriately refused to set probable cause hearings” in some biker cases until Aug. 6, only after consulting with the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.
“It is our belief that law enforcement chose Peterson to set the bonds in this case because of his lack of legal training and his willingness to ignore the requirements that each case be given individual consideration,” Broden said.
Broden represents Matthew Clendennen, of Hewitt, who was arrested on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity. Clendennen has said he was sitting on the Twin Peaks patio when the violence broke out. He said he was not involved in the melee but is associated with the Scimitars motorcycle club.