WACO, TX — All the remaining Twin Peaks biker cases have been dismissed Tuesday by the McLennan County district attorney. There were 24 remaining cases.
Recently elected District Attorney Barry Johnson said in a release that, "following the indictments, the prior District Attorney had the time and opportunity to review and assess the admissible evidence to determine the full range of charges that could be brought against each individual who participated in the Twin Peaks brawl, and to charge only those offenses where the admissible evidence would support a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In my opinion, had this action been taken in a timely manner, it would have, and should have, resulted in numerous convictions and prison sentences against many of those who participated in the Twin Peaks brawl. Over the next three years the prior District Attorney failed to take that action, for reasons that I do not know to this day."
Johnson said that when he assumed office in January, the statue of limitation expired on most of the offenses.
"I believe that any effort to charge and prosecute these individual charges at this time would only result in further waste of time, effort and resources of the McLennan County judicial system and place a further unfair burden on the taxpayers of McLennan County," Johnson said.
On May 17, 2015, a shootout erupted at the Twin Peaks located in the Waco Central Texas Marketplace. The shootout was between two biker gangs - the Bandidos and the Cossacks.
Nine bikers died in the shootout and dozens were injured. Following the incident, nearly 200 bikers were arrested.
Of those 177, 155 were indicted with various charges.
The first trial was held in September of 2017. The defendent, Jacob Carrizal, was being charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and directing activities of a criminal street gang. His trial lasted one month and ended with a mistrial.
After his trial, the amount of money spent on these cases totaled more than $1 million (as seen in the graph below). As of April 2019, at least $1.5 million has been spent on the cases. $914,058 of the cost was covered by grants.
The results of Carrizal's trial started a domino effect. No other biker was tried, and the district attorney at the time, Abel Reyna, began dropping Twin Peaks biker cases. At one point, 60 cases were dismissed at one time by Judge Strother.
The remaining 24 bikers were re-indicted on a riot charge. Three men were also charged with murder.
"I do not believe that it is a proper exercise of my judgment as District Attorney to proceed with the further prosecution of what I believe to have been an ill-conceived path that this District Attorney’s Office was set upon almost four years ago by the prior District Attorney, and I do not believe that path should continue to be pursued," Johnson said.
Attorney Brian Roberts out of Houston was a special prosecutor in some of the cases. He dismissed the ones he worked early on, and he said that as a prosecutor, it was offensive in any sense of what justice looks like.
“I agree to the first part where everyone was detained to be identified – so they could sort the witnesses from the actors," Roberts said. "The part I disagree with is every single thing afterwards. There was plenty of time for a true, thorough investigation. But instead, everyone received fill-in-the-blank, cookie-cutter charges."
Johnson will be filing a motion to dismiss all the criminal cases. There are still civil cases that are active.
Clint Broden, a partner in a law firm of Broden & Mickelsen, also released a statement about the cases being dropped. The firm said they have been involved in the Twin Peaks cases from the very beginning.
Broden represented five criminal defendants.
"We are, of course, pleased with the actions of the new District Attorney Barry Johnson and applaud him 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.
The actions of Justice of the Peace Pete Peterson should also never be excused. He set identical $1million dollar bonds and more than 170 people spent three or more weeks in jail, losing jobs, homes and families, for charges that were ultimately dismissed.
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.
In the end, my clients are certainly relieved but the anger from the false arrests will never go away."