Complex federal case could delay trials of Twin Peaks bikers
A complex federal case whose defendants include top officials of the Bandidos biker gang could delay the start of the trials of the dozens of bikers indicted after the deadly 2015 shootout at Waco’s Twin Peaks restaurant.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna filed notice Wednesday with the state district judges who will preside over the Twin Peaks trials that the federal investigation “has information which relates to the events at Twin Peaks” that won’t be released until the federal defendants are tried, which might not happen until sometime next year.
Reyna was advised in a letter dated Monday from U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin that the information the FBI has was “obtained through court-authorized wire intercepts…and remains under seal and protective order.”
“Because of the significance of this prosecution,” Durbin wrote, “I have no choice except to maintain control over litigation relating to that information and evidence until we have completed our prosecution.”
An Aug. 7 trial date has been set for the federal defendants, but Durbin said in the letter he expects the setting could be postponed until later this year or early in 2018.
An attorney representing one of the federal defendants filed a motion late last week seeking a continuance until early in 2018.
In his notice to judges, Reyna says his office “has no specific knowledge of the contents of the federal investigation,” which he says “may be exculpatory, mitigating or impeachment evidence.”
Prosecutors are required by law to disclose all exculpatory evidence to defendants in criminal cases and, Reyna said in the notice, “we are sensitive that our office is required to make a timely disclosure of any evidence we acquire, such that a defendant can make use of the information at trial.”
“I don’t see where this ruling has any bearing of any kind on any Cossacks trials," defense attorney Paul Looney said Wednesday.
Looney's clients include two un-indicted bikers.
"And these people, most of them, are innocent. And these people cannot sit around and wait for years before they’re exonerated, that’s unconscionable. So either give us a trial, or dismiss these cases with an exoneration. America does not leave people hanging like this. It’s just not what we do," he said.
According to federal court records, the Bandidos gang declared it was “at war” with the rival Cossacks, and the federal indictment specifically alleges a number of violent acts committed by Bandidos members in furtherance of this “war.”
The conflict between the two gangs is believed to have been the catalyst for the deadly May 17, 2015 shootout at Twin Peaks between rival biker gangs and law enforcement officers in which nine bikers, all of whom were members of either the Bandidos or the Cossacks, died of gunshot wounds.
Another 20 bikers were injured.
To date 152 bikers have been indicted and are awaiting trial.
Authorities arrested the 177 bikers after the melee, all of whom were charged with engaging in organized crime and all of whom were initially ordered held in lieu of $1 million bonds.
In March 2016, a McLennan County grand jury handed up indictments in the cases of some of the 80 bikers who were charged, but not yet indicted in the deadly May shootout at Waco’s Twin Peaks restaurant, as well as several who weren't arrested on the day of the shooting.
The indictments charge engaging in organized crime.
Six of the indictments were sealed and named defendants who weren’t arrested at the scene of the shooting.
On November 11, 2015, a grand jury returned indictments charging engaging in organized criminal activity against 97 bikers and also handed up sealed indictments against nine other bikers who weren’t among those arrested
Nearly 40 of the bikers arrested after the shootout have yet to be indicted.
Trials for three of the indicted bikers. Christopher Jacob Carrizal, Thomas Landers and Cody Ledbetter, have been scheduled so far this year in 19th State District Court in Waco.
Three more bikers, Kyle Smith, James Rosas, and Matthew Clendennen, are scheduled for trial so far this year in 54th State District Court.
(Rissa Shaw contributed to this story)