Reyna to take reins as DA

Nov. 3, 2010

Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
District Attorney-Elect Abel Reyna speaks to Channel 10 News during his Election Watch Party Tuesday at the Phoenix Ballroom.

By Daniel Houston and Courtney Skelly

Republican challenger Abel Reyna ousted Democratic incumbent John Segrest, the longest-serving district attorney in McLennan County history, Tuesday, earning 62 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

Appearing before a crowd of hundreds of elated supporters, Reyna thanked those present and reiterated a promise that helped drive his campaign to victory.

"I'm going to change this office," Reyna said. "I'm not going to let it change me."

Segrest failed to show at the McLennan County Democratic Party gathering, and was not available for comment.

"He was supposed to be here," said Karen Petree, chair of the McLennan County Democratic party said. "He didn't expect the loss to be this significant."

Reyna said he appreciated the work Segrest had done before him.

"He's done his part for the county in the years that he's been there; it's just time that we step up the aggressiveness against crime," Reyna said.

Reyna said he hopes to work more closely with law enforcement than Segrest's office did.

"You have to have a lot more coordination with law enforcement," Reyna said. "You've got to be able to coordinate or parallel the collection of evidence with the presentation of evidence in the court room."

The candidates, both holding undergraduate and law degrees from Baylor University, made aggressive criminal prosecution a central focus of their campaigns.

Reyna, a private-practice criminal defense attorney, had raised concerns about the number of criminal cases being dropped by Segrest's office.

Segrest responded by touting his credentials in office.

"Since John Segrest became district attorney twenty years ago, there have been more jury trials, more convictions and more criminals put in prison than under any other district attorney in McLennan County history," the Segrest campaign stated in a televised advertisement. "On the other hand, his opponent has never prosecuted a case in his lifetime."

One of the more controversial moments during the campaign season involved Reyna's father, Tenth Court of Appeals Justice Felipe Reyna.

According to an Oct. 22 KWTX News article, Justice Reyna posted a number of Facebook entries in support of his son's candidacy, prompting Segrest to request his removal from all cases involving the district attorney's office.

Justice Reyna refused and sent Segrest a Facebook message with mild profanity that ultimately went public. Justice Reyna has since publicly apologized and recused himself from all such cases as requested.

Reyna is currently affiliated with Reyna & Reed, L.L.P., a private law firm. He has been recognized by Texas Monthly Magazine as being both a 'Super Lawyer' and a 'Rising Star.'

Reyna was endorsed by the Waco Police Association and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

Before serving as district attorney, Segrest held public office as the assistant district attorney, chief felony prosecutor, misdemeanor prosecutor and had eight years of experience in private practice.