Clint Broden '90, Texas Lawyer of the Year, Unraveled Truth in Twin Peaks Massacre
In 2015, rival biker clubs squared off against each other in a shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas. Police joined the melee. After the skirmish was over, nine people were dead and 20 wounded.
The crossfire continued into the weeks, months and years that followed as the legal system tried to sort out the mess.
Bikers had been rounded up and jailed as if they had equal parts in the battle. Clint Broden ’90, a partner with the defense firm Broden and Mickelsen, has represented some of them, including Matthew Clendennen, who was shown in video surveillance footage taking cover from the fight, rather than engaging.
This summer, Broden and another Texas attorney were selected as the Percy Foreman Lawyers of the Year by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association for their efforts in unraveling some of the truth in the matter.
The alumnus recently responded to questions from UVA Law about the case.
For those who aren’t familiar, can you briefly explain what prefaced the case? What happened between the bikers, and then with the police?
On May 17, 2015, there was a meeting of the Confederation of Clubs (which consists of various motorcycle clubs) in Waco, Texas, at a Twin Peaks restaurant. An altercation broke out between one club and its support clubs, and other clubs and their support clubs. Ultimately, nine motorcyclists were killed (it would later turn out that the police killed at least four of these motorcyclists) and approximately 18 others were injured.
Initially, the police on the scene viewed many of the motorcyclists as witnesses. Nevertheless, the elected district attorney ultimately appeared on the scene and advocated for the arrest of all motorcyclists who were present and wearing club colors regardless of whether they participated in the violence. In total, 177 motorcyclists were arrested on identical “fill in the name” arrest warrant affidavits, and the justice of peace (a non-lawyer, former Texas state trooper) set $1 million bail in each instance.
Tell us a little a bit about your client.
I have actually represented four motorcyclists in their criminal cases and am participating in the civil rights lawsuits of approximately 50 motorcyclists.
The client that received the most notoriety was Matthew Clendennen. Matt was a graduate of Baylor University and was married with children. In the video of the incident, he can be seen running inside the restaurant, and it was clear he had nothing to do with the violence. He had no weapon and did not participate in the violence in any way. Nevertheless, he spent three weeks in jail until his bond was lowered and lost a landscaping franchise business that he owned. He was later indicted. He was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, which carried a minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment. However, when I ultimately succeeded in getting a special prosecutor appointed in his case and the elected district attorney disqualified, the charges were dropped based upon the lack of probable cause for bringing the charges in the first place. The only evidence against him was that he was present at the Twin Peaks restaurant on May 17, 2015, when the violence broke out and that he was wearing motorcycle “colors.”
What about your lawyering helped earn you the lawyer of the year award?
I spent a lot of time working on this case, and it inured to the benefit of many of the other defendants. I had been one of the most outspoken critics of the way the cases had been handled and assisted in successfully changing the narrative of the Twin Peaks incident that was originally advanced by the state in the days after the incident. I was successful in coordinating the cooperation of more than 100 defense counsel over three years. My representation included the recusal of the justice of the peace and both district court judges, the recusal of the district attorney’s office, three mandamuses to the court of appeals, twice overturning gag orders, the filing of numerous civil rights lawsuits, the initiation of a court of inquiry, and the filing of affidavits from various law enforcement officials and former DAs alleging corruption in McLennan County.
The end result was that most of the Twin Peaks cases were dismissed and the McLennan County District Attorney was defeated in the March 2018 primary by almost 20 percentage points.
To date, there has only been one prosecution arising out of the Twin Peaks incident, and no convictions.
Did anything you learned at UVA Law help in the case (or in your career in general)?
I loved my time at UVA, and I think the training I received there and the prestige of the school have certainly helped me in my career. Ironically, the two courses that I took while at UVA that proved to be the most beneficial for a criminal defense practice (criminal procedure and evidence) were [then] taught by a visiting professor, Christopher Slobogin.
What did you learn from the experience?
Mostly I learned what elected officials will do in the name of political opportunism despite the costs to individuals and their families.
Are you a native of Texas?
No. Texas was one of the last places I thought I would wind up. I grew up in New Jersey and practiced at a civil firm in Washington, D.C., for two years after law school. Nevertheless, I became convinced that criminal law was my calling and took a job at the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Dallas after two years in civil practice.
Are you working on any big cases currently?
I handle a whole range of cases, from DWIs to post-conviction death penalty work. Nevertheless, most of my cases are white-collar cases in federal court at both the trial and appellate levels. As far as big cases go, there is nothing I am working on now that has received the notoriety of the Twin Peaks cases; however, I always try to remind myself that every case is a “big case” to my clients, as they often face very serious consequences if they are convicted.