WACO, Texas (CN) – Texas prosecutors dropped criminal charges Thursday against 13 defendants in the deadly 2015 biker gang shootout at a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” in Waco, in another setback in the criminal prosecution of over 150 bikers that were initially charged.
The dismissals came hours before a hearing in the case of defendant Jorge Salinas, whose charges were among those dismissed. Salinas and several other defendants sought to have McClellan County District Attorney Abel Reyna disqualified from handling their case, alleging corruption.
Defense attorneys and Barry Johnson, Reyna’s opponent in next month’s Republican primary election, have said Reyna wanted to avoid the disqualification hearing where politically damaging testimony could be given about him, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported. The hearing is now cancelled.
Prosecutor Michael Jarrett told two state district judges that Reyna also intends to refuse seven more cases against bikers who have yet to be indicted.
Reyna also agreed to recuse himself in the case against biker Billy McRee. McClellan County Judge Ralph Strother said he plans to ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s prosecutorial assistance division to take over that case.
“While probable cause for the defendant’s arrest and prosecution remains based on continued investigation, the state is exercising its prosecutorial discretion in dismissing this matter in order to focus its efforts and resources on co-defendants with a higher level of culpabilities,” Jarrett’s motions to dismiss state.
Salinas’ attorney, Brian Bouffard of Fort Worth, said Thursday that Reyna “arrested, charged and indicted a very large number of these men for purely political reasons, apparently without any intent to take them to trial.”
Reyna steadfastly denied Thursday that the dismissals were motivated by politics. He said more cases may be dismissed, while others would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“This decision should not be viewed as folding or giving up by any means,” he said at a press conference. “Rather, this is an effort to narrow in on those more culpable without expending your precious judicial resources on lower level gang members.”
Reyna also denied accusations he showed favoritism to his friends and supporters.
The violent May 2015 shootout between the rival Cossacks and Bandidos biker gangs killed nine and left 20 injured. Thursday’s dismissals come three months after the mistrial of Bandidos leader Jacob “Jake” Carrizal on two organized criminal activity charges.
Carrizal had faced up to life in state prison and has so far been the only defendant to have gone to trial.
The prosecution in his case was dogged by complaints that police failed to timely turn over new audio interview evidence to the defense, who claimed the evidence disproved the prosecution’s assertion that the dispute was over the Cossacks wearing the “Texas” bottom rocker on its patches without permission from the Bandidos.