Waco

Lawyer in Waco Biker Case Challenges the Government to Put Up or Shut Up with Trials

See if they can make their silly charges stick on one guy, then either drop charges or likely see the other 105 plea out.

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My reporting on the Waco biker slaughter case from June until October has led me to suspect that it is very likely the government had no good reason to arrest the vast majority of the 177 it arrested after a massive shooting slaughter outside the meeting of a multi-club biker meeting called the Confederation of Clubs and Independents at the Twin Peaks restaurant in May. (Who fired the shots that killed nine and wounded 18 is still unknown, though the cops say the bikers were wildly shooting each other and police. Eyewitnesses saw and heard it differently.)

This week Paul Looney, lawyer for an arrestee, made a bold public gambit, reported by Houston Chronicle. Looney says the state should just put his client Cody Ledbetter on trial right now and test their ability to win on any of the prosecutions, given how much it would cost them in time and resources to try the 106 still in their legal maw:

Depending on what happens to his client, Cody Ledbetter, an army of bikers are going to quickly waive their rights to a trial and beg for plea agreements, or prosecutors are going to have to start dismissing charges, he said…

"At least 106 cases have been indicted on the identical novel legal theory," [a Looney court filing] continues," that the defendants, by arriving at Twin Peaks for a bike-club informational meeting wearing motorcycle jackets bearing either the insignia of the Cossack or Bandido Motorcycle Clubs, were making a "show of force" for a "criminal street gang," and therefore were guilty of participating in organized criminal activity."

Looney and other defense lawyers have argued that the overwhelming majority of the bikers committed no crime and that they are members of motorcycle clubs, not criminal street gangs.

The thinking, Looney said, is that if the judge agrees that the bikers did not break the law just by showing up at Twin Peaks, then the case for most if not all the bikers stops right there and everyone goes home.

Looney sees it this way: if Ledbetter loses, then that novel legal notion of the state's can quickly be tested via appeal. Given that many of the arrestees are seeking both independent trials and possible changes of venues over bad local publicity, it will be quite a complicated mess for the state to proceed with full trials.

But until this idea that the bikers were criminals just for being there has been tested, most attorneys will be understandably reluctant to plea out. Looney thinks if the state loses with his guy, then they can save themselves a lot of trouble by dismissing charges. And if the state wins, they likely save themselves lots of trouble by having most of the bikers plea out, faced with the strong possibility they would also lose at trial.

No one, by the way, is being charged with actually shooting or stabbing anyone. Who did any of that shooting and killing, as above, still unknown, and it is starting to seem as if the state wants it that way.

Looney's document is readable in full at the Chron site.

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  1. Thank God we have police forces to protect us.

  2. “At least 106 cases have been indicted on the identical novel legal theory,” [a Looney court filing] continues,” that the defendants, by arriving at Twin Peaks for a bike-club informational meeting wearing motorcycle jackets bearing either the insignia of the Cossack or Bandido Motorcycle Clubs, were making a “show of force” for a “criminal street gang,” and therefore were guilty of participating in organized criminal activity.”

    Mizzou isn’t the only place where A-1 is presumed dead.

    1. Freedom of speech and freedom of association are for chumps apparently.

      1. Just… not for unions.

  3. It’s not just 1A that’s in trouble. I seem to recall another amendment…Oh, yes, here it is – number 6 mentions the right to a speedy trial.

    1. Depends on the meaning of speedy,and who decides.

  4. Maybe this is a case where the feds do their job and keep the locals in line. Then again, maybe not.

  5. Looney is playing a whole lot of people with this. Mostly he’s telling all other defense attorneys not to take any plea agreements because, even though it’s not prosecutors’ money being spent, they don’t have enough taxpayer dollars to go through the the charade of over a hundred trials. Whether or not the judge is in on this massive cover-up, practicality has to come to Waco, and the fact that the system has overplayed its hand has to settle in.

    The best thing for the defendants is if everything is dismissed, but open trial is likely the only place the truth will come out.

    1. Got to think that the easiest thing to do would be to remove to federal court in one of the larger metro areas like Dallas or Houston, since it sounds like the indictments are mostly coming under RICO. This takes care of a lot of the venue issues/jury pool tainted problems, and gets the case into the hands of jurists more used to trying large criminal cases with lots of defendants.

      That said, the way McClennan County’s handled this so far is shady as hell. I still expect to see the vast majority of the dead having ended up that way due to police bullets, not from their fellow bikers.

      I’m still amazed that we’ve seen practically no surveillance or cell phone footage of the incident so far.

      1. It is a safe bet that ALL of the dead are from police bullets, or someone would be on trial for a homicide.

    2. In cases like this they can combine the trials, or at least they often do so in federal court. But, yeah.

  6. I still haven’t seen a photo of all the guns on display that were found on the bikers with some grinning cop holding one up. What guns did they have? Where are the guns now? Where are the videos?

    1. A photo of a hundred crappy .38 specials and grandpa’s 1911 isn’t as impressive nowadays.

    2. It seems that nobody, or more specifically the prosecutors, want to talk about guns or shooting. The pivot towards the minor, BS, charges of gang membership tell you all you need to know.

  7. Wait a minute. If all the charges are dismissed how will the cops justify shooting all of those people? They can’t dismiss them now.

    I have a feeling this is going to snowball.

    1. ^Winner, winner chicken dinner.

      Also, giving those people criminal records will intimidate them into not asking questions. Those plea bargains will include agreements to not sue or file counter-charges.

      Please, oh please, let this blow up in the prosecutor’s face (figuratively speaking, of course).

  8. (Who fired the shots that killed nine and wounded 18 is still unknown, though the cops say the bikers were wildly shooting each other and police. Eyewitnesses saw and heard it differently.)

    I’m still waiting for the police to produce the guns they seized from citizens that had actually been fired.

    And, I’m wondering why anyone believes the cops when the partial autopsy report indicated that the killing was all done by .223-ish rounds and shotguns. None of which, I am willing to bet, were used by the bikers.

    This was an ambush, followed by a massacre. And not one single cop will lose a nickel of pay, much less a job or his/her/its freedom.

  9. I think it’s cute that the lawyer calls the Bandidos a “motorcycle club” and not a criminal syndicate. No one joins that group just so he can ride a bike.

    I of course decry any attempt by law enforcement to shoot large breasted women in short skirts, but let’s be honest about who the bikers really are.

    And yes, the correct answer is to legalize drugs, not ambush bikers, but let’s not lose credibility by pretending they were dentists and lawyers who just happened to like Harleys.

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