A judge granted a defense request Thursday to postpone the next Twin Peaks shootout trial, bumping a priority setting for the trial of former Baylor University defensive end Shawn Oakman.
Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court reluctantly granted the motion from attorneys for biker Tom Modesto Mendez, who said they could not be ready to try the case by the scheduled Aug. 27 trial date.
Mendez, the Bandidos San Antonio chapter president, is charged with riot, a first-degree felony, in the May 2015 biker brawl at Twin Peaks that left nine dead and 20 injured.
After consulting with Mendez’s attorneys, Jaime Pena, of McAllen, and Mark Metzger, of Galveston, and five prosecutors at a hearing Thursday morning, Strother agreed to move Mendez’s trial to Sept. 10. District Attorney Abel Reyna did not attend the hearing.
Metzger, who has been Mendez’s attorney for two years, asked for the second time to withdraw from the case and to allow Pena to take over. Metzger told the court he has never tried a felony case before and would be incompetent in his representation of Mendez. He also said his life, his family and his practice would be ruined if Strother forced him to stay on the case.
Strother denied his request and instructed him to work with Pena so both attorneys could get prepared to try the case next month.
“You know this case has been pending now for years in one form or another and here we are almost on the eve of trial and you have a motion for continuance,” Strother said. “You can excuse me for being a little skeptical and a little pessimistic about why at this moment in the process that we are doing what you propose to do.”
Pena only recently was hired to represent Mendez with the expectation that he would replace Metzger. Pena told the judge he has not had time to review the voluminous discovery in the case, which includes evidence supplied recently to Waco prosecutors by federal officials from racketeering cases against two former Bandidos national leaders.
Metzger asked Strother earlier this month to postpone the trial and to allow him to withdraw. Strother took the matter under advisement until Thursday’s hearing.
Mendez would be the second biker charged in the Twin Peaks shootout to stand trial. The trial of Jacob Carrizal, Bandidos Dallas chapter president, ended with a hung jury and a mistrial in November.
Prosecutors vigorously objected to Mendez’s motion for continuance, and at points during the hearing, prosecutors Robert Moody, Hilary LaBorde, Staci Scaman, Gabrielle Massey and Gabe Price all argued against the request. They said Metzger has had plenty of time to review the discovery in the case and that Pena, likewise, has had opportunities to review much of the evidence because he represented a biker whose case was dismissed in March.
Metzger, who renewed his bid to be allowed off the case several times, complained to Strother that he felt like he was being ganged up on and attacked personally by the prosecutors.
LaBorde charged the attorneys with playing a “shell game,” alleging their 11th-hour motions were calculated to delay the trial and to build an ineffective assistance of counsel claim into any potential appeal.
Strother, who said he was trying to be fair to both sides, said a jury panel of 600 potential jurors for Mendez’s case will come in Friday to fill out juror questionnaires and to be given instructions from the court.
Strother excused Metzger from Friday’s court appearance after Metzger said his 98-year-old grandmother is “on her death bed.”
Moving Mendez’s trial to Sept. 10 knocked Oakman’s sexual assault trial from its scheduled slot. Moody said he and Oakman’s attorney, Alan Bennett, will confer soon and find another trial setting.
Oakman has been playing football for the Bismarck, North Dakota, Bucks of the Champions Indoor Football league.
Oakman is charged with sexually assaulting a Baylor student at his apartment in April 2016.