A second Twin Peaks defendant appears headed to trial later this month after he rejected an offer from the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the first-degree felony charge against him in exchange for his guilty plea to misdemeanor assault and one year on deferred probation.
“I didn’t do anything,” George Bergman said Friday. “That would be the first lie I told, saying I did something when I didn’t do anything. I am not willing to take anything because I didn’t do anything. I came to Waco for a meeting.”
Bergman, 50, a truck driver from Wills Point, is a former member of the Desgraciados motorcycle group and is among 154 bikers indicted in the May 17, 2015, shootout in Waco that left nine dead and 20 injured.
He said he knows that by turning down a year on deferred misdemeanor probation, he is risking a potential life prison term if convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity.
A jury panel for his trial is scheduled to report to the McLennan County Courthouse on Jan. 12 to fill out a questionnaire. Jury selection is slated for Jan. 23. Court officials project a two-week trial.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court conducted a pretrial hearing in Bergman’s case Friday morning. Bergman’s attorney, Clint Broden, of Dallas, withdrew a motion seeking to disqualify McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna from prosecuting Bergman’s case.
“I thought it was an appropriate motion, but we thought it would delay the trial, and my client is very anxious to get this behind him,” Broden said. “He wanted a trial and didn’t want any delays. That was the only reason, really, we withdrew the motion.”
Broden’s motion charged that Reyna should be removed from prosecuting the Twin Peaks case for a variety of reasons, including that he could be called as a witness to explain his and law enforcement officials’ decision to arrest 177 bikers with ties to the Bandidos or Cossacks motorcycle groups.
Broden assured the judge Friday that he would not be calling Reyna as a witness in the case.
Prosecutor Michael Jarrett, who made the misdemeanor plea bargain offer to Bergman, declined to discuss the offer. He said he agrees with Broden’s decision to withdraw his motion to disqualify Reyna.
“I think it was a proper decision on Mr. Broden’s behalf.” Jarrett said. “Mr. Reyna was never and has never been a witness in this case, and it would not have been proper for him to be called as a witness in this case. So I think Mr. Broden realized that he did not have the legal justification to disqualify the district attorney’s office and he made the proper legal decision to drop it.”
Reyna did not attend Friday’s hearing, and officials said Friday that Reyna will not be on the state trial team in Bergman’s case as he was for the first Twin Peaks trial involving Bandidos Dallas chapter President Jacob Carrizal. That trial ended in mistrial after no more than six jurors voted to convict Carrizal on any of the three counts against him.
Carrizal’s trial was marred by late disclosure of evidence to the defense by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. The trial was delayed on several occasions after Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, realized she had not been given evidence she was entitled to before trial.
At one point in the trial, Gotro’s discoveries of withheld evidence had become so regular that Johnson ordered Reyna to instruct his prosecutors and all law enforcement agencies involved in the Twin Peaks investigation to go back and search their files to make sure all materials had been disclosed to the defense as required by law.
The judge reminded prosecutors Friday about their legal and ethical obligations to disclose evidence to the defense and ordered the state to produce materials to Broden by the end of next week.
“If they are not produced by Friday, they are not coming into evidence,” Johnson said.
Jarrett stood to respond, but the judge cut him off, saying, “Mr. Jarrett, if you don’t think there were discovery problems in that case, then you and I watched different trials.”
Broden said he thinks the state has cooperated with him on discovery matters, but said, “I don’t know what I don’t have.” He reminded the court about a conversation Gotro recorded with Christopher Lindsey, an assistant attorney general, who can be heard telling her Reyna urged a Texas Ranger to withhold evidence in Carrizal’s case and said he thinks Reyna is “deluded” and cannot be trusted.
“At the end of our conversation, I told (the Ranger), ‘You need to stop talking to Abel. You need to stop talking to Jarrett,” Lindsey said on the recording. “They are not on our side. … You can’t trust your own local prosecutor? Not in this case. Nope. Not even a little bit.”
Lindsey told Gotro that soon after he was assigned to the Carrizal case, “it became immediately apparent” that her accusation that Reyna was withholding evidence was true.
Jarrett said prosecutors were not aware of some of the evidence that was not disclosed by some agencies during the Carrizal trial and will work to make sure Bergman’s trial team gets what it needs.
“We are eager to have a trial with all the cards face up on the table,” Jarrett said.
In other pretrial matters, Johnson denied a motion from Broden to dismiss the charge against Bergman on the basis of a speedy trial violation.
“I certainly think there has been presumptive delay in this case,” Broden said. “It is going on about 32 months now. Mr. Bergman asked for a trial at the earliest opportunity, and the state chose to take a case involving a man who was not asking for a speedy trial over Mr. Bergman. A year is a presumptive delay, and now we are at 32 months. I think this is a very egregious violation of speedy trial acts under the federal and state constitutions.”
After the hearing, Bergman said he did not accept the plea because he did nothing wrong. After riding to Waco in a caravan of about 20 Bandidos and their support members led by Carrizal, he was walking toward Don Carlos Mexican Restaurant to go to the bathroom when the first shots rang out, he has said.
He said he ducked for cover and stayed there until the firing stopped.
“How can I say I am guilty for something when that is what I did?” Bergman said.
Broden said the state has no evidence against Bergman “other than he was present at Twin Peaks and was wearing a motorcycle jacket.”
“It is a very simple case,” Broden said. “Really, I think you could impanel 12 monkeys on this case and they would acquit Mr. Bergman.”