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D.A. in Waco Biker Case Ordered to Stop 'Revenge Porn' Harassment of Ex-Defendant

Prosecutors sent "private, intimate sexual images" taken from an arrestee's phone to lawyers representing all 177 defendants.

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CNN

Local authorities in Texas absurdly overreached when they attempted to prosecute dozens of people who happened to be present at the site of a May 2015 shooting melee that broke out during a meeting of motorcycle clubs at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. Last month charges against more than a dozen of the 177 arrestees were dropped, and yesterday a judge ordered the McLennan County District Attorney's Office to stop distributing what his attorney calls "private, intimate sexual images" of former defendant Cody Ledbetter and his wife.

According to an emailed press release from Ledbetter's lawyers, prosecutors sent the pictures, which police took from Ledbetter's cellphone, to "attorneys representing 177 Twin Peaks defendants as part of the discovery process." Attorney Paul Looney described the images as "revenge porn." District Judge Matt Johnson told prosecutors to cut it out.

"It's a real tragedy that the District Attorneys office had to be specifically ordered by a District Judge to quit their criminal activity," Looney said in the press release, "but at least the judge did that and we are very grateful. It's the first time in my practice that I have any knowledge of a judge having to order a District Attorney's office to quit being criminal. The bizarre saga that has become Waco continues to reach new lows."

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports that Judge Johnson also ordered attorneys who have received the private sexual images to delete them. Another judge handling prosecutions related to the Waco shootout, which killed nine people and wounded 18, will be doing the same.

According to the Tribune-Herald, "prosecutors argued that the Michael Morton Act, which orders prosecutors to disclose evidence against defendants, required them to send out everything they collected in the massive case." That law covers "evidence material to any matter involved in the action." It is not clear how such photos could possibly be relevant to the case against Ledbetter, who had been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity because he was present at the time of the shootout.