An attorney for former Twin Peaks shootout defendant Cody Ledbetter asked a judge on Friday to order the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office to recall sexually explicit photos and videos of Ledbetter and his wife that the DA’s office distributed to 177 Twin Peaks defendants as part of the discovery process.
The DA’s office dismissed the criminal case against Ledbetter, a 28-year-old diesel mechanic from Waco with no criminal record, last week, four days before a jury panel was to report to fill out questionnaires and ahead of his April 2 trial date. While Ledbetter said he was relieved to get the criminal case behind him, he wants the DA’s office to ask lawyers for the 177 bikers arrested who received the private photos and videos of him and his wife to return them.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court took the request under advisement following a brief hearing Friday after prosecutors Sterling Harmon and Gabrielle Massey argued that Johnson’s court no longer has jurisdiction over Ledbetter’s case since the dismissal. They said it could cost the state an additional $4,500 in shipping fees to recall the discovery, remove the photos and videos and send the mounds of evidence back out.
The judge said he wants to review cases the attorneys submitted to determine if his court still has jurisdiction.
Paul Looney, of Houston, who represents Ledbetter, argued that Johnson’s court still has jurisdiction over the case for at least 30 days and that the DA’s office committed criminal acts by disseminating the photos and videos, which were taken from Ledbetter’s cellphone after his arrest in May 2015.
Ledbetter was among 177 bikers arrested after the Twin Peaks shootout in which nine bikers were killed and dozens more were wounded.
“Today we found out that the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office is more concerned about $4,500 in FedEx expenses than it is about the continuing and ongoing crimes that are being committed against my client and his spouse,” Looney said. “It seems that the DA still puts the ‘emPHAsis on the wrong syllABle.’ “
Looney contends that every time the DA’s office sent out the images or videos, it constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.
“They committed thousands of misdemeanors against my client,” Looney said.
Harmon disputed Looney’s claims that the DA’s office committed any crimes, arguing at the hearing that it is bound by the Michael Morton Act and other laws to provide defendants with all evidence gathered during an investigation.
Harmon said there are other remedies available to Ledbetter to achieve his goal, but Johnson’s court no longer has jurisdiction to act.
Looney said Ledbetter does not want to sue anybody over the release of the images. He just wants the DA’s office to recall the discovery, delete the videos that were private and never meant to be released to anyone and then send the discovery back out to defendants with pending cases.
“There is never a bad time to do the right thing,” Looney said.
Harmon said the cases in Johnson’s court only represent half of the bikers’ cases. Looney said he has spoken to 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother, who attended the hearing, and he is inclined to grant a motion to recall the discovery and redact the images that came from Ledbetter’s phone.
Strother declined comment on Looney’s statement after the hearing.
Ledbetter witnessed his stepfather, Daniel Boyett, get shot during the biker brawl at the former Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. Boyett died from his wounds.
In response to other motions filed by Twin Peaks biker attorneys before the March 6 primary election, Reyna dismissed 26 Twin Peaks cases and refused 32 others that had not been indicted, effectively canceling hearings at which Reyna and his present and past assistants were subpoenaed to testify.
Reyna, who lost his bid for a third term to Republican challenger Barry Johnson by a 20-point margin, did not attend Friday’s hearing.