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Mistrial declared in 1st Twin Peaks shootout trial

A mistrial was declared Friday in the trial of Jacob Carrizal, the first biker from the May 2015 Twin Peaks shootout to stand trial.

Jurors told 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson they were hopelessly deadlocked after more than 14 hours of deliberation, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial at about 2:50 p.m.

While the jury was whisked away by court officials and not made available to the media, a courthouse source who spoke to the jury after the mistrial was declared said there were never more than six jurors in favor of finding Carrizal guilty on any of the three counts.

In a note to Johnson, the jury initially reported they had reached a unanimous vote on one count, but that vote later changed. The initial decision was for not guilty on the first count, the source said.

Carrizal, 35, president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter, is charged with directing the activities of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity with the underlying offenses of murder and aggravated assault.

He will remain free on bond despite Carrizal’s admissions during his trial testimony that he violated the terms and conditions of his bond by continuing to associate with Bandidos. He rose from vice president of the Dallas chapter, which was his title at Twin Peaks, to president after the shootout.

The shootout, the culmination of previous violent confrontations between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs, left nine dead and 20 injured.

While his attorney, Casie Gotro, declared the mistrial a victory, Carrizal hugged his family, fiancee and supporters and gathered with them in a jury room to decompress after the ending of the 23-day trial.

Before declaring the mistrial, the judge asked the presiding juror if he was sure additional deliberation would not result in unanimous verdicts. He said he was sure.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, who made the decision to indict 155 bikers on identical charges after the Twin Peaks shootout, left the courtroom Friday without commenting on the case. Neither he nor his first assistant, Michael Jarrett, returned phone messages later in the day.

The next step in the Carrizal case was unclear Friday. His case remains on the docket, but other Twin Peaks bikers’ cases likely will be tried before Carrizal is tried again. It is possible that he and other bikers will seek a change of venue now that one case has been tried in McLennan County.

Motions are pending seeking the recusal or disqualification of Reyna, which could affect a number of the cases depending on the results of those hearings.

When asked if Carrizal will be retried, Gotro said, “We will see.”

“Given the reaction in the jury room, in my experience, I haven’t seen the district attorney too hot to try cases when the jury spoke as clearly as they just did,” she said. “Jake took the stand, and the jury loved hearing from him. But the evidence was insufficient for a conviction.”

The jury told the judge they were deadlocked Thursday evening, but the judge instructed them to continue. They were sequestered in a hotel for the night and resumed work at 9 a.m. Friday. By 11:30, jurors again said they were deadlocked.

Johnson instructed them to continue again, telling jurors he will have to declare a mistrial if they are unable to come to a decision and that another jury will likely hear the same evidence they did and would be confronted by the same questions they had to consider.

“There is no reason to hope the next jury will find these questions any easier to decide than you have found,” the judge’s instructions said.

Jurors said then that they had come to a conclusion on one count but not the others. They also told the judge that some jurors were willing to wait a month and are not willing to consider a review of the evidence. Jurors also expressed worries about financial repercussions in their personal lives if the trial lasted longer.

Gotro did not ask the judge to declare a mistrial at that time but objected to him giving the jury those instructions.

She said with all the delayed discovery she received from the state and law enforcement agencies during the trial, she thinks the next jury would hear a different set of evidence.

The trial was delayed on several occasions, including once for two days, while the judge gave Gotro time to review evidence supplied to her by prosecutors during the trial that should have been disclosed long before.

In a note Thursday night, the jury foreman reported a juror identified as “Mr. P” told the other jurors he had experience with the Cossacks and would not change his mind because of that prior experience.

That juror has ties to a McLennan County motorcycle shop, which he disclosed on his juror questionnaire in early October. The shop is said to be “Bandidos friendly,” sources said.

Thursday night was the first time a jury has been sequestered in McLennan county in at least 50 years, courthouse officials said.

Waco veteran cited in Afghan war book enjoying domestic life

Three medals — a Bronze Star with a V indicating valor, a Purple Heart, and an Afghanistan campaign medal with two stars — usually lie in a drawer in the Riesel home where Waco-born Jacob Sones lives with his family.

He admits he glued their ribbons and patches on his dress uniform because he forgot to have them sewn on. In a recent interview, Sones showed more identification with his Army paratrooper unit than personal achievements. He had a 173rd Airborne Brigade cap and wore a dark hoodie with a logo for The Chosen Few — named for his unit, Chosen Company — on its front and, on the back, a large seal identifying him and the 173rd as members of The Terrorist Hunting Club.

In addition to his medals, he keeps a weathered 173rd Brigade flag, a border tattered from sun and wind, that his father flew at his Plano home every day of Sones’ 15-month deployment to Afghanistan.

They’re reminders of his time in Afghanistan, when Chosen Company manned outposts in the Waigal Valley in mountainous eastern Afghanistan, a deployment that saw the unit frequently under fire from raiding Taliban fighters.

Less than two weeks before returning stateside, an understrength Chosen Company would repel a brutal attack near the village of Wanat on July 13, 2008, in which nine of Sones’ comrades died. Two-thirds of the unit was injured in the battle, including Sones.

The battle followed two other bloody fights for the company. In the course of its time in Afghanistan, two Chosen Company members would earn the Medal of Honor, two others Distinguished Service Crosses, 14 Silver Stars and 16 Bronze Stars. That’s one reason author Gregg Zoroya, a member of the USA Today editorial board and a seasoned military journalist, decided to write his book “The Chosen Few,” which came out earlier this year.

The battle was almost 10 years ago, and, after some rocky patches in the years since, Sones is enjoying the present: living with his girlfriend Reese Horvat and her children, 16-year-old Alexi, 13-year-old Tyler and six-year-old Genevieve in Riesel. He is expecting a child with Reese in March and is studying instrumentation at Texas State Technical College, though he’s presently sitting out a quarter or two until after the new addition to the family.

His days are scheduled with taking the kids to school or to volleyball, football or dance, and he’s fine with that.

“I guess I’m domesticated,” he said with a smile.

Sones is one of several dozen members of Chosen Company interviewed by Zoroya, whose reporting includes stints in Somalia, Israel during the Palestinian intifada, and Iraq.

“I’ve always been interested in the experience of war,” he said in an interview this summer.

In his coverage of military and veterans issues for USA Today, Zoroya, 63, kept hearing about the experience of the 173rd Airborne.

Like Battle Company in the neighboring Korengal Valley, whose experience was captured in Sebastian Junger’s book and documentary “Restrepo,” the paratroopers were posted in 2007 to a remote observation post. The American strategy was to hold the Taliban and its supporters at bay while the Afghanistan government strengthened its relationship with its people. A lack of progress caused the Army and State Department to reconsider, and toward the end of its deployment, Chosen Company was ordered to move back from its extended positions.

Mountainous terrain and altitudes of more than a mile above sea level made combat in Afghanistan a different affair than that still underway in flat Iraq. Zoroya’s book focuses on three battles fought by several Chosen Company platoons: the fight for a base nicknamed the Ranch House, in which enemy fighters overran the base perimeter; a night ambush on a steep mountainside and a harrowing medevac rescue of wounded and dead while under fire and with no margin for error; and the battle at Wanat, where the outmanned Americans in a low-lying base fought off waves of attackers.

“What I wanted to do is breathe life into those guys who didn’t come back,” Zoroya said. “That’s the calling of the book.”

It also breathes life into the living, and Zoroya said that when his wife transcribed his interviews with Sones, she saw similarities in their oldest son.

“She said (Sones) reminded her of our oldest son Jackson, in that he was devil-may-care, bright, intuitive and very sharp,” he said.

Sones, born in Waco to parents Phillip and Teri, appears in the book when he and his fellow paratroopers are in Italy before orders change their posting from Iraq to Afghanistan. Like others in Chosen, Sones entered the service after a turbulent boyhood marked by his parents’ divorce and frequent moves.

Sones’ drinking and behavior made him a less-than-model soldier. He led in Article 15s, issued for misbehavior that does not require judicial intervention, and was still only a private first class when he arrived in Afghanistan. But in Chosen Company, he found commitment, discipline, achievement and peer support.

“I was a scrawny little kid at the beginning, but I learned to love it,” he said.

He returned to Plano on leave to marry his girlfriend Nicole, then back to the field. He and his unit had just completed building a new base near Wanat, one in an exposed position, and were counting the days left in their deployment when enemy fighters attacked in force.

In the course of the battle, Sones, armed with a rapid-firing Squad Automatic Weapon, and Israel Garcia, charged up a stony hillside to rescue fellow paratrooper Ryan Pitts, who was wounded and manning a solo outpost above the action. Garcia died, and Sones took shrapnel in his legs and left arm. But Pitts survived, and the company was eventually rescued.

Sones would see a long recovery from his wounds in the following years, complicated by post traumatic stress syndrome and a bout with alcohol abuse. He and Nicole separated, then reunited and had a son, Gavin, born seven years ago. They’re now in the process of divorcing, he said.

When his injuries forced retirement from the Army, Sones decided to enroll at Texas State Technical College, where his father and grandfather had attended. He started in biometrics but later switching to instrumentation and electrical programming on the promise of higher salaries.

This summer, he started dating Horvath and by September had moved in with her family.

Sones keeps in touch with some of his Chosen brethren, including Pitts, who won a Medal of Honor for his part in the Wanat battle. Several from Chosen Company and their commander, Col. William Ostlund, showed up for a 10th year reunion in Oklahoma City earlier this year. Some, including Sones, were thrown out of a bar while celebrating, although he said it was more for drinking outside than riotous carousing.

At 30, Sones knows where more of his boundaries are. He doesn’t drink much, and although he once regularly marked the anniversary of the Wanat fight, he knows there’s a danger in dwelling on it.

On Saturday, Veterans Day, America honors those who have served in the military. It’s also Genevieve’s birthday, and that has more of Sones’ attention. He shrugged when asked about any plans to observe the day. A Waco restaurant is offering free drinks to vets, he noted.

“I might do that,” he said.

Affidavit alleges Reyna dismissed cases for friends, campaign donations

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna dismissed criminal cases for his friends and major campaign donors for political and personal gain and reportedly remains under federal investigation, according to a sworn affidavit filed Friday from Reyna’s former top assistant.

Greg Davis, a trial attorney with more than 30 years’ experience, resigned as Reyna’s first assistant in August 2014, saying he no longer could be a part of a two-tiered justice system that gave preferential treatment to Reyna’s friends and political supporters.

Davis detailed his allegations in an affidavit filed in Twin Peaks defendant Matthew Clendennen’s case as part of Clendennen’s efforts to recuse Reyna from prosecuting his case.

A hearing on the motion is set for Nov. 20, but Davis will be out of the country then and offered an affidavit in place of his testimony at court.

Clendennen’s attorney Clint Broden filed the affidavit Friday, the day a mistrial was declared in Jacob Carrizal’s trial, the first Twin Peaks case to go to trial. Broden declined comment on the filing because of a gag order in the case.

Neither Reyna nor his first assistant, Michael Jarrett, returned phone messages seeking comment.

“I ultimately resigned from the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office because it had become apparent to me that despite my warnings and advice, Reyna had no intention of stopping his practice of giving preferential treatment to his campaign supporters and friends,” Davis wrote in the affidavit. “I firmly believe that neither politics nor wealth should play any role in prosecutorial decisions and Reyna’s actions were completely antithetical to my beliefs and the oath that all prosecutors take to do justice.”

Davis’ affidavit lists three cases in which he says Reyna dismissed valid criminal cases of his campaign supporters and friends by instructing subordinates to refuse to accept their cases for prosecution. One such case involved a DWI allegation in March 2012 involving a wealthy businessman, who has since died.

His blood-alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit and his companion that night told police he was too drunk to drive.

“I concluded the case had been dismissed for political reasons. I was told that (the man) contributed to Reyna’s re-election campaign after the refusal of his DWI case,” Davis wrote.

The second case Davis listed was a DWI in 2013 involving the wife of a prominent Waco physician and a close friend of Reyna’s wife, the affidavit states. Again, Davis said, he reviewed the case and found it to be sufficient for prosecution, and like the other case, the woman or her husband contributed to Reyna’s campaign fund after the case was refused.

The third case involved a marijuana possession allegation in 2013 against Reyna’s wife’s employer at the time, who also contributed to Reyna’s campaign.

Davis said he discussed the dismissals with Jarrett, Reyna’s current first assistant. He said Jarrett agreed with his assessment that the cases were valid and that Reyna’s actions were “inappropriate,” according to the sworn statement.

Davis and Jarrett met with Reyna to “voice our concerns,” Davis said. Reyna told them to “Never get in my f---ing business again,” Davis wrote in the affidavit.

Davis said he and Jarrett met with Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann to “discuss our concerns about Reyna’s actions.” Three months later, Davis said Reyna initiated his Pretrial Intervention Program and used that program to “effectively dismiss cases that did not by any objective standards deserve pretrial diversion,” Davis alleges.

Davis lists two cases, including one against the daughter of a prominent Reyna campaign donor who was a convicted felon and otherwise would not qualify for the program, as examples.

Also, Davis alleges, Reyna used specially appointed prosecutors to help his campaign supporters and friends. Reyna would falsely claim the DA’s office had conflicts in prosecuting certain people and arrange for the appointment of special prosecutors who ultimately dismissed the cases, according to Davis.

Davis also said that, despite an office policy of opposing early parole for offenders, Reyna wrote a letter in December 2013 requesting a full pardon for a prominent restaurant owner and campaign supporter’s nephew who was serving time for manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance in Brazos County.

Davis said he met with FBI agent Dan Burst about a public corruption investigation of Reyna and said it is his understanding that the investigation is ongoing.

Jarrett, prosecutor Amanda Dillon and Julissa West, Reyna’s former longtime administrative assistant, also have met with Burst in connection with the investigation, Davis’ affidavit states.

Jarrett, who became first assistant after Davis resigned, told Davis that he bought another cellphone so he could “covertly communicate” with the FBI agent without Reyna “learning that he was speaking with federal agents behind his back.”

Davis also alleges that two or three months after the May 17, 2015, biker shootout at Twin Peaks, Jarrett called him to say that the DA’s office was responsible for having all of the bikers arrested “despite the fact that the police simply wanted to question the bikers, get their information and then release them while they (the police) conducted an investigation,” according to the document.

Reyna has testified he discussed the Twin Peaks cases with former Police Chief Brent Stroman and that it was Stroman’s ultimate decision to arrest 177 bikers. Reyna’s office indicted 155 of the 177.

Attached to the affidavit are notes Davis made after meeting with the FBI agent.

He said the agent asked about “Abel’s possible drug use and associates.” He said he told him about what he perceived to be Reyna’s “marked change in behavior” and information provided by a confidential informant about a sports bar Reyna frequents.