Johnson inherited the Twin Peaks cases when he took office in January, and said he has spent 75 percent of his time since then with a team of prosecutors and investigators trying to determine how to resolve the remaining cases.
Johnson's decision Tuesday means that no one will be held accountable for the multiple deaths or injuries or for the chaotic battle between heavily armed, rival motorcycle clubs waged in a crowded shopping center parking lot while families were on their way to lunch after Sunday church.
In announcing his decision, Johnson said it is time to "end this nightmare that we have been dealing with in this county since May 17, 2015."
"There were nine people who were killed on that fateful day in Waco, Texas, and 20 injured, all of whom were members of rival motorcycle clubs, and the loss of life is a difficult thing," Johnson said. "But after looking over the 24 cases we were left with, it is my opinion as your district attorney that we are not able to prosecute any of those cases and reach our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
About 200 bikers were arrested after the shootout on identical charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and held on $1 million bonds each. Former McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna sought indictments against 155 bikers on those identical charges and chose to try Jacob Carrizal, the Bandidos Dallas county chapter president, first.
Carrizal's case ended in mistrial in November 2017, with most of the jurors in his case favoring acquittal, and no other defendant has been tried since.
The way Reyna handled the Twin Peaks cases was the centerpiece of Johnson's campaign, and he defeated Reyna in the March 2018 Republican primary by 20 percentage points. After the primary, Reyna dismissed all but 24 of the remaining Twin Peaks cases. The special prosecutors appointed to handle four of the cases after Reyna recused his office also were critical of the manner in which the cases were handled and dismissed them, also.
Reyna sought to re-indict the remaining two dozen, mostly on riot charges. Other charges that may have been possible arising out of the melee, such as attempted murder, aggravated assault or felon in possession of a firearm, were barred by three-year statutes of limitation before Johnson took office, he said.
"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," Johnson said in a statement.
"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," he said.
Carrizal is among those whose cases are to be dismissed. Johnson noted that his trial cost $1 million in preparation and trial costs, plus an additional $500,000 in security and overtime pay after county officials ratcheted up security for his trial.
"To open that Pandora's Box back up and start down that road again when we don't feel that, after looking at the facts and the evidence, that we would be able to meet our burden of beyond a reasonable doubt would be irresponsible, in my opinion. Therefore, I am making the decision now to end this nightmare that we have been dealing with in this county since May 17, 2015," Johnson said.
While the criminal cases will be dismissed, more than 130 of the bikers have civil rights lawsuits pending against Reyna, former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, the city of Waco, McLennan County and individual local and state officers who were involved in the arrests.
Dallas attorney Don Tittle represents about 120 of the bikers in their civil lawsuits.
“Maybe if law enforcement had stuck with the original plan to focus on individuals who might have been involved in the violence and let the rest of the motorcyclists go after being interviewed, things would have gone differently, Tittle said. "It’s hard to imagine that turning the operation into a dragnet wasn’t a major distraction for the investigation, not to mention a public that grew increasingly skeptical as this thing played out. All this for an ill-advised attempt to prove an imaginary conspiracy theory, which to this day there’s not a shred of evidence to support.”
Bandidos who cases will be dismissed include: Ray Allen of Krum; Jeff Battey, Ponder; Jacob Carrizal, Dallas; John Guerrero, San Antonio; David Martinez, Terrell; Tom Mendez, San Antonio; Marshall Mitchell, Longview; Jerry Pierson, no address available; Marcus Pilkington, Mexia; Glenn Walker, Copperas Cove; and Reginald Weathers, Forney.
Cossacks with cases set for dismissal include: Mitchell Bradford, Gordon; Aaron Carpenter, Gatesville; Roy Covey, Clifton; William Flowers, no address available; Rich Luther, Cossack; Wesley McAlister, Gilmer; Jacob Reese, Mount Pleasant; Owen Reeves, Bruceville; Timothy Satterwhite, Gordon; and Kyle Smith, Kilgore.
Others whose cases will be dismissed include Richard Cantu, a Machateros from San Antonio; Nathan Champeau, a Scimitar from McKinney; and Richard Lockhart, a Companero with no available address.
SOURCE: Waco Tribune-Herald