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Prosecutor Accused of ‘Revenge Porn’ Attack on Biker Gang Member

A defendant in the Waco biker shooting has filed a motion claiming prosecutors distributed “revenge porn” against him and his wife.

On Thursday, Houston defense lawyer Paul Looney, known for hosting press conferences with a lit cigar suspended from his lips and a Lone Star bolo-tie affixed to his white shirt, announced a motion to remove the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office from the case of former biker Cody Ledbetter. Looney is asking that a special prosecutor be appointed to the case.

In front of the scenic Waco courthouse Looney accused the district attorney’s office of “gratuitously, tortuously, and criminally” attaching photos and videos of Ledbetter and his wife having sex to the discovery process, which was then distributed to all 155 defendants in the massive shooting case.

Ledbetter is one of 177 people who were arrested on May, 17, 2015, after the melee at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, that left nine men dead and 20 more injured when the Cossacks and Bandidos motorcycle clubs reportedly began shooting one another, triggering police intervention.

A staggering 155 bikers were indicted on charges of organized criminal activity in one of the largest mass arrests in a single criminal incident in U.S. history.

Early police descriptions of the crime scene painted a chaotic picture of blood and weapons amid half-eaten burgers and half-drunk margaritas. Bodies in Cossacks and Bandidos gear lay strewn between bikes. Guns were thrown in bags of tortilla chips, trash cans, and toilets.

None of the defendants in the case have yet gone to trial, but this week a defense attorney for Dallas Bandidos leader Christopher Carrizal claimed that his case will be tried next week “come hell or high water,” according to KWTX-TV. Like many of the bikers arrested that day, Carrizal’s trial date has been in flux for more than a year.

Looney said in a press release that Ledbetter had private (“nothing kinky”) videos and photos of himself and his wife on his phone, which was confiscated by police that day.

“These private images, intended to be seen only by Ledbetter and his wife, have been made available to hundreds, if not thousands of people, including other defendants, their attorneys, the staff of those attorneys’ law firms and/or investigators,” he continued. “The district attorney and his assistants have committed numerous crimes against Mr. Ledbetter and his wife by knowingly revealing these intimate images on his telephone without any legal excuse.”

The 28-year-old’s trial is currently set for Jan. 9, 2018. Ledbetter was a member of the Cossacks motorcycle club and witnessed his stepfather, Daniel Boyett, die of gunshot wounds during the May 2015 shooting.

“In this case, prejudice is plain,” Looney wrote in the motion. “[District Attorney Abel] Reyna and numerous others prosecutors in his office have victimized Mr. Ledbetter and his wife.

“They have shown no respect for his rights, and cannot justly prosecute their own victim,” he added, claiming that Reyna’s office violated the Ledbetters’ rights and committed a crime by distributing the images without their consent.

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“I saw more porn than I’ve ever seen in my life,” Dallas lawyer Clint Broden told The Daily Beast, of the four terabytes of information. Broden represents another biker and defendant in the shooting, Matthew Clendennen.

“Some of it was homemade porn and some of it was from the internet,” Broden said. “It’s totally ridiculous—they knew this was on the discovery. It couldn’t have been an accident.”

He added, “They put it out to embarrass people.”

Prosecutors were also reportedly forced last year to recall a portion of the evidence that was sent out to defense attorneys because there was child pornography on the phone of at least one of the defendants.

Reyna did not return requests for comment left on Friday by The Daily Beast.

“The state has been claiming a ‘duty to disclose’ that never applied to these images, and that is simply an outrage,” Clay Conrad, Looney’s law partner, said in a statement. “They have a duty to disclose relevant information, but they also have a duty not to disclose private sexual images having absolutely nothing to do with the current case.”

The 155 trials—in which all of the defendants are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity—have been routinely pushed back over more than two years as the county struggles to cope with the financial burden of the investigation and defense attorneys file motions to remove judges and the district attorney’s office.

Broden said he filed a motion to remove Reyna in August 2016 over recorded attorney-client jail calls circulated in the discovery, but that motion was denied by Judge Matt Johnson, who recused himself last week from Clendennen’s case. Another out-of-town judge has since been assigned to it.

“It is a circus, and the wheels are falling off the bus,” said Broden. Clendennen’s trial is currently set for Nov. 6.

In May, The Daily Beast reported that four of the accused bikers filed a suit against the city, law enforcement, and Twin Peaks restaurant for violating their civil rights and slandering their reputations. The lawsuit, with flare, demanded $1 billion and compared the shooting to poison gas attacks in Syria.

Beaumont defense attorney Brent Coon—who represents Jim Albert Harris, Bonar Crump Jr., Drew King, and Juan Carlos Garcia—said in a press release at the time that the aftermath of the shooting was the “worst police operation initiated by law enforcement in the history of Texas.”

Eventually, Coon claimed, Waco’s handling of the shooting “will be shown to be one of the biggest blunders and cover-ups by any law enforcement agency in the country,” and the city will be proven to be “another Salem, Massachusetts in a witch hunt for bikers.”

Broden said Friday he was not aware of any other attempts to remove Reyna from the Twin Peaks cases, but he added: “My guess is there’ll be more to come.”

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Colorado’s revenge porn law brings nearly 200 charges, but getting convictions is a challenge – The Denver Post

A Colorado law designed to punish people for revenge porn — posting intimate photos of former lovers or spouses on the internet typically following a break-up — has resulted in nearly 200 charges since it was passed three years ago, but securing convictions and guilty pleas has been a challenge.

There have been 192 misdemeanor cases for non-consensual pornography filed since House Bill 14-1378 became law in July 2014. Just over a third of those have resulted in guilty pleas or verdicts, reflecting the difficulty of proving the cases but also, possibly, weaknesses in the law.

While law enforcement officials and victims advocates praised the law’s success, they remained measured because, The Denver Post found, many cases have been either dismissed or set aside in plea-bargain deals.

Also, it doesn’t appear anyone has yet used the law’s strongest tool at punishing someone for allegedly posting nude photos of ex-girlfriends or ex-wives — most of those charged are men — without permission: filing a civil lawsuit that offers guaranteed penalties of at least $10,000.

“It’s hard to know how many cases there might be because they are not filed as revenge porn,” said attorney Cassandra Kirsch, who has represented a handful of clients whose cases were settled before a lawsuit was filed. “And a lot of attorneys bring them under different theories, such as an invasion of privacy case or defamation or negligence. The law is relatively new, and a lot of people just don’t know they can file it.”

In a lawsuit recently filed in Denver District Court, a three-time Paralympian accuses her airline pilot ex-boyfriend of circulating nude photos she shared with him during their relationship. The unidentified 39-year-old woman’s lawsuit against her 41-year-old ex-boyfriend doesn’t use the new state law, but instead relies on laws aimed at defamation and invasion of privacy.

The Post found that most of the misdemeanor criminal charges filed under Colorado statute 18-7-107 — including one against the airline pilot — were accompanied by another charge, though 89 were filed by themselves, state court records show. There were 37 misdemeanor charges of posting intimate photos on the internet without permission that were part of a larger felony case.

Of the 192 cases filed, 117 have already been decided: 42 ended in a guilty plea or verdict, a 36 percent conviction rate, state court records show. Of the remainder, 27 were dismissed, three were acquittals, 26 were dismissed as part of a plea-bargain agreement, and 19 were dismissed as part of a deferred sentence deal. There were 75 cases still pending as of Sept. 1.

“Dismissals are unusual, but a vast majority of our cases will end up in plea agreements,” said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, who voted for the bill as a legislator and now prosecutes the offenders. “It’s particularly difficult with cases where victims and perpetrators know each other, and this happens far too frequently with these.”

The law isn’t as clear as it could be, Kirsch said. For example, it does not apply to photos of someone who is clothed, even if they are engaged in a sexual act.

“If you have sexual activity and the victim is clothed, that’s not technically a violation since, in the case of oral sex, it’s the defendant’s body that is shown, not the plaintiff’s,” Kirsch explained.

That too few of the criminal cases have resulted in a conviction is not a surprise, she said.

“Firstly, how do you know they are the one to post the photo on the internet?” Kirsch asked. “There’s a difficult burden of proof. Often times it’s only the plaintiff’s word, and sometimes it’s the same photo that was shared with multiple partners. That’s difficult to unravel and difficult to hold people accountable.”

El Paso has most in state

With 15, Denver County ranks fourth for the number of revenge porn cases it has filed since 2014, tied with Larimer County, records show. Three were dismissed, and three others were dismissed as part of a plea-bargain deal in Denver. Two were dismissed in Larimer County.

Tops in the state, however, is El Paso County, with 32 revenge porn cases filed — the county where bill-sponsor Amy Stephens resides. Of those cases, nine were dismissed outright, four were dropped as part of a deferred judgment, and five others were dismissed on a plea bargain, records show. There were five guilty verdicts, and nine cases are pending.

“I’m actually pretty shocked by that,” said Stephens, who left the legislature in 2014. “I knew from the beginning that this would be tough to prosecute, but just because of that doesn’t mean you don’t do the right thing and make it a crime. A number of people are trying to get their justice and it’s not OK for people to get a free pass.”

A spokesman for El Paso County Prosecutor Dan May said he was away and unable to comment.

In her lawsuit, the Paralympian says her ex-boyfriend, Byron Rodenburg, allegedly posted the woman’s photos to a pair of pornographic websites in which users rate a person’s intimate parts. She has asked to remain anonymous in her lawsuit because of her status as a semi-public figure and because it could impact her regular job.

In court papers, the woman’s attorneys say about a half-million people have seen the photos, which included a caption with her real name and birthday. Some users tracked her down on Facebook and wrote to her, the lawsuit says, increasing her anxiety and trauma. The lawsuit says she’s since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Her attorney, Mark Jachimiak, did not comment.

“While in today’s world of technology it may be less shocking to learn that some couples take and share explicit pictures to use and share within the safety and confines of their partnership,” the lawsuit reads, “it is not commonplace to have one half of the partnership then post the pictures, along with a vulgar paragraph coined as an invitation to harm (the woman) on pornographic websites for hundreds of thousands of people to see.”

Rodenburg is also charged in Adams County with posting an image for harassment, a misdemeanor, and felony stalking, records show.

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