Judge approves dismissal motions in Twin Peaks cases
State District Judge Ralph Strother Thursday morning approved the first of a series of motions seeking to dismiss the cases of bikers indicted in the deadly May 2015 shootout at Waco’s Twin Peaks restaurant.
The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office was seeking to dismiss charges against 13 bikers indicted for engaging in organized crime and will drop charges against eight others who weren’t indicted.
The 13 indicted bikers include Andrew Stroer, 52, of San Antonio; Marco DeJong, 40, of Marion; William Redding, 37, of Austin; Jorge Salinas, 27, of Lometa; Michael Moore, 44, of Fort Worth; Colter Bajovich, 30, of Gatesville; Boyce Rockett, 30, of Robinson; Clifford Pearce of Waco; Narcisco Luna, 57, of New Braunfels; Jose Valle, 45, of San Antonio;. Diego Obledo, 43, of San Antonio; Mario Gonzalez, 39, of San Antonio, and James Rosas, 50, of Selma.
The eight unindicted bikers include Esther Weaver, 49, of Killeen; Ryan Craft, 25, of Austin; Jonathan Lopez, 30, of Austin; Theron Rhoten, 38, of Austin; James Harris of Austin; Bonar Crump of Austin; Juan Garcia, 47, of Austin, and Drew King, 34, of Dripping Springs.
Thursday morning, Strother dismissed cases against Rockett, Luna, Gonzalez, Pearce, Salinas and Stroer.
State District Judge Matt Johnson later dismissed the cases of the other seven indicted bikers.
“While probable cause for the defendant's arrest and prosecution remains, based on continued investigation, the state is exercising its prosecutorial discretion in dismissing this matter in order to focus its efforts and resources on co-defendants with a higher level of culpability,” prosecutors said in each of their motions.
Attorney Brian Bouffard, who represents Salinas, issued a statement in which he said, “Something like justice is now finally happening in McLennan County. Far too late, and at far too high a cost – in lives, money, and broken faith by our elected officials – but happening.”
“Though McLennan County prosecutors are ‘re-evaluating’ the cases, the fact is that an ethical district attorney’s office evaluates cases before they are indicted, instead of indicting people just to see if they will be intimidated enough to plead guilty,” he said.
“To the great credit of these innocent men, none of them, and none of us as their counsel, blinked. Jorge Salinas, a decorated United States Marine with two combat tours and an honorable discharge, an innocent man, did not blink. As his lawyer and his friend, I could not be more proud of him.”
Additionally McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna filed motion seeking to be recused from prosecution of the case of Twin Peaks defendant Billy McCree, 41, of Seagoville, in whose trial he may be willing to testify.
"As district attorney, my sole driving force is to see that justice is served for the good people of McLennan County," Reyna said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
"While the arrest and indictments of these individuals was soundly based in the law, I have made the decision to dismiss these matters in order to focus our attention on defendants even more culpable in the Twin Peaks violence," he said.
"This effort to narrow our focus has been ongoing since the trial that took place last fall. While the result of the trial was not what we desired, the information gleaned through trial was invaluable in our continued investigation of these matters."
Reyna again rejected allegations that he has granted favors to supporters and an allegation contained in a sworn affidavit in which a Waco attorney said one of her clients told an FBI agent investigating Reyna in 2014 that he delivered cocaine for Reyna’s use.
"Let me be clear, I have never shown favoritism to friends or supporters. I have followed my oath to do the right thing at every turn. I do not use, nor have I ever used drugs and in fact, sit on the Cenikor board dealing with drug and alcohol abuse," Reyna said.
The May 17, 2015 shootout left nine bikers dead and 20 more injured.
Officers secured the scene relatively quickly after the gun battle ended.
Police 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.
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.
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.
Six of the indictments were sealed and named defendants who weren’t arrested at the scene of the shooting.
Only one of the scores of bikers indicted in the shootout has gone on trial
Jacob Carrizal, 35, was accused of directing activities of a street gang, engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of murder and engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offense of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The case ended in a mistrial in November after jurors told the judge that could not reach a verdict on two of the counts.