A state district judge denied a motion Friday to quash the engaging in organized criminal activity indictment against a founding member of the Escondido motorcycle group and an active motorcyclists’ rights advocate.
Judge Ralph Strother rejected Thomas Paul Landers’ request to dismiss the indictment after a brief hearing in 19th State District Court.
Landers, 59, of Georgetown, was among 106 bikers indicted Nov. 10 on first-degree felony charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, with underlying offenses of murder and assault.
Landers’ attorney, Millie Thompson, of Austin, argued that the indictment should be thrown out because due process rights forbid the state from using “novel, umbrella offenses” that allege multiple offenses but fail to do so with the requisite degree of specificity.
The indictments, like the arrest warrant affidavits filed to support the 177 bikers arrested, are identical, alleging the same acts for all 106, who are alleged in the indictments to be members of a criminal street gang.
Thompson called the indictment defective and fundamentally unfair because it fails to provide specific notice of what is alleged.
Prosecutors Michael Jarrett and Andrew Erwin argued that the indictment is legally sufficient to provide notice of what Landers is charged with and tracks the language of the statute.
After the hearing, Landers, a board member of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists and chairman of its legislative task force, said he arrived at Twin Peaks on May 17 prepared to give an update about the recent legislative session to the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents.
Landers said he and his groups, which include veterans, Christians and service-oriented groups, have worked closely with the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Transportation, legislators and other agencies to secure rights for bikers around the state.
“We are a grass-roots political movement so we have a voice in our affairs,” Landers said.
Landers said State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, spoke at a recent conference of biker organizations.
“I know he wouldn’t have spoken at our conference if he thought that we all were members of a criminal street gang,” Landers said.
Landers declined to describe the events at Twin Peaks that left nine dead and more than 20 wounded. He also declined to say where he was when the shooting started or what he did afterward.
The Escondidos are a support group of the Bandidos motorcycle group.
186 total arrests
Nine indictments involving Twin Peaks defendants were returned under seal in November because those defendants had not been arrested. Those indictments have since been unsealed, as those bikers also have been arrested, bringing the total to 186 arrested in the case.
The indictments charge the defendants engaged in organized criminal activity by intentionally or knowingly causing the death of an individual, then names the bikers killed May 17. Some of the indictments actually name 10 killed, but prosecutors have said that was a clerical error that will be corrected.
The charges allege the defendants killed the victims by “shooting and/or stabbing and/or cutting and/or striking” the victims.
The indictments also allege the defendants used or exhibited a deadly weapon, namely “a firearm and/or a knife or a sharp object and/or a club and/or an asp and/or a whip and/or brass knuckles and/or a chain.”
The indictments also charge that the defendants caused bodily injury to the people injured and name 24 bikers who were either shot, stabbed, cut or struck.