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.”… Read the rest