DA to drop remaining 24 Twin Peaks cases

A frame grab of video from a surveillance camera on the patio of the restaurant obtained by CNN. (File)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) New McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson announced Tuesday his office has chosen to not prosecute the remaining 24 Twin Peak cases.

Shots rang out on May 17, 2015 outside the Twin Peaks Restaurant, at Interstate 35 and Loop 340 as motorcycle riders gathered there for what was supposed to be a meeting on legislative issues.

Within seconds nine bikers were dead, more than 20 were injured and shortly thereafter 177 were under arrest, each charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and each held in lieu of a $1 million bond.

Only one case ever made it trial and ended in a mistrial.

“This is a difficult decision which must be made base on the existing facts and evidence in accordance with the laws of this state and in the interest of justice, and not a decision that can be made based on emotions or personal feelings or preferences,” Johnson said in a press release.

In September 2018 KWTX reported, the total cost of the shootout has run into the solid seven figures and the state, at least so far, has little to show for its effort, all the while realizing the final cost is not yet calculated for the defendants and in some cases may never be.

McLennan County reported $1,317,835.96 in total identifiable costs related to Twin Peaks.

“I will not in the Twin Peaks matter, nor in the any case, instruct the excellent assistant district attorneys in my office to proceeds to trial on any case where I do not believe there is a strong likelihood of the evidence establishing the guilt of a person charged beyond a reasonable doubt,” Johnson said.

The 24 bikers were named in superseding indictments in May 2018 that replaced the original engaging in organized criminal activity indictments in which they were originally named.

The cases that Johnson dismissed Tuesday include those of Ray Allen, Jeffrey Battey and Glenn Allen Walker, who were named in indictments in May 2018 charging murder and riot, both first-degree felonies.

Johnson also dismissed the cases of Roy James Covey, who was re-indicted in May 2018 for tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and Richard Luther, who was re-indicted for tampering with physical evidence

Johnson also dismissed riot charges against the remaining bikers including Christopher Jacob Carrizal whose trial on the original engaging in organized criminal activity charge ended in a mistrial in November 2017 after jurors reached consensus on one of three counts, but told the judge they could not agree on the other two.

Riot charges were also dismissed Tuesday against Mitchell Bradford (two counts); Aaron Carpenter (two counts); Richard Cantu; Nathan Champeau (two counts); William Flowers (two counts); John Guerrero; Richard Lockhart; David Martinez; Wesley McAlister (two counts); Tom Mendez; Marshall Mitchell; Jerry Pierson; Marcus Pilkington; Jacob Reese (two counts); Owen Lee Reeves (two counts/habitual); Timothy Shayne Satterwhite (two counts/enhanced/plus unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon); Kyle Smith (two counts plus tampering with evidence), and Reginald Weathers.

More than 130 lawsuits are pending against local officials

The arrest affidavits, all 177 of them, were word-for-word the same and none included mention of probable cause in individual cases.

Challenges from lists of lawyers began piling up, citing violations of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure on probable cause requirements and excessive bond.

As the cases began moving into the courtroom one-by-one, they began to fall apart one-by-one until ultimately of the original 177, only the two dozen remained.

Prosecutors won no accolades, but defense attorneys did

Accolades so far haven’t come for the state when it comes to Twin Peaks legal issues, but the defense statewide is crowing about what the defense bar thinks was an inappropriate response to the incident in the first place.

Two defense lawyers, among the most outspoken of the Twin Peaks defense attorneys on probable cause issues, F. Clinton Broden of Dallas and Casie L. Gotro, of Houston were honored in June by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association as the co-Percy Foreman Lawyers of the Year for their zealous defense of their Twin Peaks clients.

Broden, who defended Hewitt resident Matthew Alan Clendennen, and Gotro, who represented Christopher Jacob Carrizal, then president of the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos motorcycle group, were selected based on their outstanding legal representation in the Twin Peaks case, the organization said.

Broden issued a statement Tuesday in which he applauded Johnson for his efforts.

"On the other hand, the fact that this case is going on four years is a true miscarriage of justice. Many lives of those falsely accused were irreparably damaged by former District Attorney Abel Reyna not to mention the victims and their families who were denied justice from those actually responsible," Broden said.

"In addition, it is hoped that members of the news media learned a lesson. While certainly not all members of the news media, and reporters for the Waco Tribune-Herald are truly an exception, in the beginning days of this tragedy the news media drank the kool-aid of roving biker gangs that Patrick Swanton, Waco Police spokesman, peddled only to ultimately find out that this narrative was false and that many innocent people were falsely arrested," he said.

"In the end, my clients are certainly relieved but the anger from the false arrests will never go away."

Curiously Gotro hasn’t been eligible to practice law in the state since Sept, 1, the State Bar of Texas confirms, because her dues, which were due on June 1, have not been paid.

Gotro was scheduled to defend a Bandido whose trial begins later this year in Tarrant County, but has been removed from the case, officials confirmed.

In the end the Twin Peaks account still is tolling for the county and the county’s taxpayers, and for the defendants, both those who still have active cases and those who had their cases dismissed, and then there’s the lawsuits in federal court.

“That, if they go to trial, will be expensive for everyone, the clients, the lawyers and the government,” MacLemore said, “even if there’s no award.”

Even after taking office Johnson indicated he had not determined how he would the cases.

"Without a doubt, the Twin Peaks cases that I've inherited, and there are 24 of them, have taken most of our time and emotional energy by going through those cases,” he said in March.

"Certainly out of the 24, I think we are looking at some dismissals."

It became clear Tuesday, some ended up meaning all cases.