While the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed 117 Twin Peaks cases in recent months, including 62 on Tuesday, prosecutors plan on Wednesday to re-indict those bikers with cases remaining on a variety of charges.
According to sources familiar with the plans, prosecutors will seek to indict some or all of the 38 defendants with indictments still pending on a variety of charges, including riot, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence and felon in possession of a firearm.
The DA’s office indicted 155 bikers on identical engaging in organized criminal activity charges with underlying offenses of murder and aggravated assault. The indictments charged that the bikers, acting in a conspiracy, were all members of criminal street gangs and went to Twin Peaks in a show of support, knowing that a violent confrontation was likely.
Nine died and 20 were wounded during the shootout between Bandidos, Cossacks and their support motorcycle groups on May 17, 2015.
In the almost three years since the shootout, only one defendant, Jacob Carrizal, has gone to trial. And despite his case being handpicked by District Attorney Abel Reyna to be tried first, it ended in a hung jury and a mistrial. A courthouse source said at the time that jurors initially voted to acquit Carrizal on the first count before the vote changed to 11-1 for not guilty.
By re-indicting the bikers on riot charges, prosecutors still will have the same first-degree felony punishment range as a hammer. Also, they might have a better chance for conviction without the burden of proving the bikers were members of a criminal street gang, which proved troublesome in Carrizal’s case, courthouse sources said.
Carrizal is president of the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos but insisted at his trial that his group is trying to change its image, does charitable work for children and should not be considered a criminal street gang, despite what law enforcement witnesses said.
Now, 117 of the 155 indictments stemming from the 2015 shootout have been dismissed, leaving 38 bikers still under indictment.
In a riot case, prosecutors will not have to prove the bikers committed any other offense, only that they participated in a riot, the sources said.
The Texas Penal Code defines a riot as the assemblage of seven or more persons resulting in conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons; substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services; or by force, threat of force, or physical action deprives any person of a legal right or disturbs any person in the enjoyment of a legal right.
“A person commits an offense if he knowingly participates in a riot,” according to the Penal Code.
Riot is, at minimum, a Class B misdemeanor charge. However, punishment is set at the same classification as any offense of a higher grade committed by anyone engaged in the riot if the offense was in the furtherance of the purpose of the assembly or an offense which should have been anticipated as a result of the assembly, the Penal Code states.
That means if someone was murdered during a riot, those indicted can face the same penalty as a murder defendant, five to 99 years in prison or up to life. In the case of a riot with aggravated assault, the maximum punishment would be 20 years.
The Penal Code pertaining to riot says it is a defense to prosecution “that the assembly was at first lawful and when one of those assembled manifested an intent to engage in certain conduct, the actor retired from the assembly.”
Many of the bikers can be seen on surveillance video fleeing the area after the first shots were fired. Some took refuge in large walk-in coolers with Twin Peaks employees.
There is a three-year statute of limitations to charge defendants with riot. So a new team of prosecutors, who have been re-evaluating the Twin Peaks cases since Reyna was defeated in the March primary, have until May 17 to re-indict the Twin Peaks cases if they intend to charge them with riot, the sources said.