Waco Biker Trials Update

The wheels of (in)justice seem to be grinding ever on in the endless string of (non)trials resulting from the 2015 Twin Peaks Waco biker shootout.

First, another of the bikers arrested in the shootout is now headed to trial on April 2:

Cody Ledbetter has been trying to get his day in court for almost three years as the specter of witnessing his stepfather’s death in the 2015 Twin Peaks shootout and his pending indictment hang over his life.

Ledbetter and his attorney, Paul Looney, of Houston, got their wish Monday when 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson gave them the April 2 trial date initially reserved for the retrial of Jacob Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter, whose November trial ended in a mistrial.

Ledbetter’s stepfather, Daniel Boyett, was shot and killed at Twin Peaks during the Sunday afternoon brawl between members of the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle groups and their support clubs, and Ledbetter’s life has been turned upside down while the first-degree felony charge hangs over his head.

Carrizal’s trial ended in mistrial in November after jurors could not reach unanimous verdicts on any of the counts against him. The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office hand-picked Carrizal to be tried first among 154 bikers indicted at the time in the Twin Peaks case.

On Monday, Carrizal’s new attorney, Christopher Lewis, of Dallas, filed a motion for continuance in the case, telling Johnson he is set for trial in federal court in Dallas on the same day. He also said he received 1.9 terabytes of discovery from the DA’s office on Feb. 12 and needs more time to adequately review the materials and prepare for trial.

With a trial date available, Looney and Ledbetter, a 28-year-old diesel mechanic with no criminal record, jumped in.

“It is just time to go in and lay the cards on the table and let the jury exonerate this man,” Looney said. “He has been innocent and on bond for three years. That is a torture that no innocent person should have to go through. It is time for it to stop, and we are finally in front of a group of people who can finally make it stop.”

Looney filed a motion to disqualify McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna in October after it was discovered that the DA’s office released videos from Ledbetter’s cellphone that showed Ledbetter and his wife having sex. The videos were sent to more than 125 attorneys as part of the massive Twin Peaks discovery process.

In news you may have missed, the charges against thirteen of the bikers were dismissed in February:

An attorney for one of the bikers indicted in the deadly 2015 Twin Peaks shootout said it appears the “Twin Peaks dam” is starting to break with the dismissal of charges against 13 bikers Thursday.

Meanwhile, the same attorney, Brian Bouffard, said McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna only dropped the cases in a show of “moral cowardice by an elected official” to avoid adverse testimony at a scheduled Thursday hearing to disqualify his office.

Two district judges signed orders submitted to them by the DA’s office Thursday morning dismissing charges against 13 bikers arrested in the May 17, 2015, Twin Peaks shootout and two recusing the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office in two other biker cases.

Besides the 13 dismissals, prosecutor Michael Jarrett told the judges that Reyna also intends to formally refuse eight more cases against bikers who were arrested, but have not been indicted in the shootout that left nine dead and dozens injured.

The dismissals came hours before a hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon at which two bikers were asking to disqualify Reyna from handling their cases on a variety of grounds.

That hearing was canceled in light of Reyna’s actions.

Reyna did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday and declined to provide the Tribune-Herald with a written statement he prepared about the dismissals.

Judge Ralph Strother, of Waco’s 19th State District Court, said Thursday he plans to ask the Texas Attorney General’s Office prosecutorial assistance division to take over prosecution of the case against biker Billy McRee. Reyna agreed to recuse his office in that case, while he dismissed the case against Jorge Salinas.

Salinas, a two-tour Marine combat veteran; and McRee, a mechanic, are both former members of the Cossacks motorcycle group.

Salinas, who said he was sitting in a deer blind when he was notified his case had been dismissed, said he became emotional at the news. He said he is grateful, but that the decision came too late and at too high a cost to him and his family.

Salinas, his family and Bouffard, of Fort Worth, spoke at a press conference Thursday that also included McRee and his family; and his attorney, David Conrad Beyer, also of Fort Worth; and Dallas attorney Clint Broden.

Broden, who represents two bikers indicted in the incident, said they chose the first-floor courthouse rotunda as the location of the press conference because it was there that Reyna held a press conference almost three years ago to announce that he had, as Broden characterized it, “bamboozled” a grand jury into indicting 154 bikers on identical charges after the shootout.

“My client is a decorated Marine combat veteran,” Bouffard said. “He and I took the same oath years ago. Part of that oath is that we will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And I ask you and I ask the public to ask yourselves, what better definition of a domestic enemy of our Constitution than Abel Reyna?”

The attorneys charged that Reyna only decided to drop the charges and to recuse his office in McRee’s case to escape being placed under oath at the disqualification hearing and to prevent the adverse testimonies of former and current members of his staff, some of whom have reported alleged abuses of his office to Texas Rangers and the FBI.

“The Twin Peaks dam has now broken, and with each new dismissal that may come, the public will see clearly what Twin Peaks defense counsel have known for almost three years — that Abel Reyna arrested, charged, and indicted a very large number of these men for purely political reasons, apparently without any intent to take them to trial,” Bouffard said in a statement Thursday morning.

“Though it took far too long, we pushed Mr. Reyna’s back to the wall and he finally had nowhere else to run.”

And what about Mr. Reyna himself, the prosecutor who has yet to bring a single charge of murder in an incident where nine people died, but was more than willing to file conspiracy charges against bikers for being in the wrong place at the wrong time? He lost in the Republican primary:

Barry Johnson, who beat Reyna in the Republican primary, made the bungled prosecution of more than a hundred bikers a central issue of his campaign. The years since the shootout, he argued, have been marked by misconduct, suppressed evidence, and overreach.

According to the official story, two rival motorcycle gangs got into a turf war outside a local Twin Peaks restaurant, and then turned their guns on police officers who tried to intervene. Nine of the bikers were killed in the shootout and 20 more were wounded. But investigative reporters have cast doubt on this narrative, suggesting instead that police overreacted to a small skirmish and escalated the fight. Police were responsible for at least four of the nine deaths, according to evidence obtained by the Associated Press.


Reyna’s office ultimately pursued charges against more than 150 bikers under the argument that even individuals who weren’t involved in the fight were guilty by their attendance alone. More than 100 bikers have since sued Waco for wrongful arrest. Their cases could cost the city more than a billion dollars.

Prosecutors were caught repeatedly withholding evidence during the first and, thus far, only biker trial. A Texas Ranger relayed that Reyna had specifically instructed him to keep evidence away from the defense team.

“At one point in the trial, [the defense attorney’s] discoveries of withheld evidence had become so regular that [the judge] ordered Reyna to instruct his prosecutors and all law enforcement agencies involved in the Twin Peaks investigation to go back and search their files to make sure all materials had been disclosed to the defense as required by law,” the Waco Tribune reported.

That trial ended with a deadlocked jury in November. Since then, Reyna has dismissed more than 50 biker cases and recused his office from another to avoid a disqualification hearing. The bikers’ defense attorneys subpoenaed several of Reyna’s employees and a retired police detective to testify about the DA’s misconduct and corruption.

Assuming he wins in November, Johnson has his job cut out for him cleaning up Abel Reyna’s mess…

(Hat tip: Dwight.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply