A judge said Wednesday he will order attorneys for Twin Peaks shootout bikers who received sexually explicit images of biker Cody Ledbetter and his wife distributed by the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office through the discovery process to destroy the images.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court also issued an order Wednesday prohibiting McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office from further distribution of the “private, intimate sexual images” of Ledbetter and his wife taken from Ledbetter’s cellphone after his arrest in May 2015.
Johnson’s orders came in response to a motion from Ledbetter’s attorney, Paul Looney, who called the DA’s actions “revenge porn” and alleged office personnel are guilty of misdemeanor offenses for every image or video of the Ledbetters they sent or send out.
“We’re finally coming to the end of this odyssey with him,” Looney said Wednesday. “The State of Texas through the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office has been ordered to do that which every citizen is required to do — quit committing crimes. It’s a real tragedy that the district attorney’s office had to be specifically ordered by a district judge to quit their criminal activity, but at least the judge did that and we are very grateful. The bizarre saga that has become Waco continues to reach new lows.”
Johnson said he intends to send notices to the 60 or so attorneys who represent Twin Peaks defendants in his court in coming days to notify them of his order. Judge Ralph Strother, of 19th State District Court, who has an equal number of Twin Peaks defendants in his court, said he also will issue orders that mirror Johnson’s.
Johnson’s order to the Twin Peaks attorneys will say he will consider rescinding his orders if they can prove a specific need to retain those images.
“I am extremely grateful for any efforts that will assist this young couple in regaining their privacy,” Looney said. “I am not sure how this works. I wouldn’t know how to destroy images off the kind of drive that they have given out, but if it is physically doable and everyone will comply, it will work. If not, I hope we can do something else. I am extremely grateful that the judge recognizes the horrible violation of the privacy rights that the district attorney’s office has imposed on my client and his young wife.”
Prosecutors argued at a hearing last week that Johnson no longer has jurisdiction to act in Ledbetter’s case since the DA’s office dismissed the engaging in organized criminal activity charge against Ledbetter, a 29-year-old diesel mechanic from Waco, last month. Ledbetter would have been the second defendant in the Twin Peaks shootout that left nine dead and dozens injured to stand trial.
The first Twin Peaks trial involving Jacob Carrizal, Dallas chapter president of the Bandidos, ended in a hung jury and a mistrial.
Ledbetter’s dismissal came four days before a jury panel was to report to fill out questionnaires before a scheduled April 2 trial date.
Earlier in the Twin Peaks discovery process, prosecutors sent out images of child pornography taken from a cellphone of one of the defendants. The DA’s office was forced to recall that round of discovery after the revelation was brought to their attention.
On Tuesday, an attorney who recently signed on to represent a Twin Peaks defendant was meeting with the DA’s office seeking to modify his bond conditions and asking for discovery. Johnson’s orders will prevent the DA’s office from sending out more images of Ledbetter and his wife.
Prosecutors argued that the Michael Morton Act, which orders prosecutors to disclose evidence against defendants, required them to send out everything they collected in the massive case.
Looney said the Michael Morton Act has a provision for the protection of private information.
“The district attorney’s office just didn’t bother to follow that provision,” Looney said.
Reyna did not return phone messages Wednesday.
In response to motions filed by other Twin Peaks biker attorneys in recent months, Reyna dismissed 26 Twin Peaks cases and refused 32 others that had not been indicted.