Gotro

Attorney Casie Gotro gives closing arguments for her client Jacob Carrizal in November in the McLennan County Courthouse.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson, file

Casie Gotro withdrew as attorney for Twin Peaks defendant Jacob Carrizal on Thursday, but she pledged to continue providing information to a state defense lawyers grievance committee about what she calls prosecutorial misconduct by the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office.

Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court approved Gotro’s motion to withdraw as Carrizal’s lawyer, about a month after Carrizal’s trial ended in mistrial. Jurors deadlocked and could not reach unanimous verdicts in any of the three counts against him.

Court officials have scheduled a new trial for April 2 for Carrizal, 36, Dallas chapter president of the Bandidos motorcycle group, which clashed with a large group of Cossacks at Twin Peaks in May 2015, leaving nine dead and 20 injured.

Gotro said after the brief hearing that there is no conflict between her and Carrizal. She said she handled the case for free, was only paid $8,000 for a portion of her expenses and fees from a Bandidos defense fund and just cannot afford a retrial.

“It took a long time for me to start getting paid, but I believed in him and felt like he needed some help,” Gotro said. “I took a pretty good financial hickey, and I can’t afford to do that again. I know people want there to be some bad blood between Jake and I. There isn’t. It is just simple finances.”

Johnson asked if the court would need to appoint an attorney to represent Carrizal. Gotro said Carrizal has been talking to attorneys and thinks he will be able to hire one.

Johnson set a status hearing in Carrizal’s case for Feb. 2 and said he hopes to discuss the April 2 trial setting with his new attorney at that time. It is possible the retrial could be postponed if the new attorney cannot be ready by then.

Gotro, of Houston, told the court she will work with Carrizal’s new attorney and do all she can to help him or her prepare for trial.

Carrizal remains 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.

“That lawyer is going to have a hell of a lot easier time getting ready than I did because we have the evidence that has been hidden,” Gotro said after the hearing.

Gotro and the DA’s office have butted heads since she signed on to the case in March over defense access to evidence in the case. Carrizal’s trial was interrupted on at least three occasions after Gotro uncovered evidence that should have been turned over to the defense that was not disclosed.

During one of the revelations, an angry Gotro stormed out of the courtroom during a break, calling back over her shoulder that the DA’s office failure to disclose certain evidence was criminal.

Gotro has submitted materials to the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association grievance committee, which investigates claims of prosecutorial misconduct, and said she will continue to do so as transcripts from Carrizal’s trial become available.

“When you file these grievances, it is like an indictment. You have to have every available fact to support what you are saying,” Gotro said. “So they have recordings, transcripts, motions to quash subpoenas filed, in my opinion, in bad faith, that will all be evidence to support claims of misconduct by every lawyer for the state of Texas who touched this case.”

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna did not return phone messages Thursday. First Assistant DA Michael Jarrett said he could not comment because the case remains pending.

“The systematic abuses in this case don’t just affect one person,” Gotro said. “There were 177 people that were arrested. How many more are going to be prosecuted? This is a statewide issue, and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is willing, ready and able to pursue that on behalf of all of us.”

During a break in Carrizal’s trial, Gotro secretly recorded her conversation with an assistant state attorney general, who represents the Department of Public Safety. He said on that tape that Reyna encouraged a Texas Ranger to withhold evidence in the Twin Peaks case and that Reyna is “deluded” and cannot be trusted.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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