Former Baylor University football player Shawn Oakman or Twin Peaks biker Tom Modesto Mendez will go to trial Sept. 10 in Waco’s 19th State District Court.
The dilemma for the defendants — and court officials — is that it might come down to the wire before it is determined which trial will be held.
Oakman was in court Friday morning with his attorney, Alan Bennett, for a pretrial conference. Judge Ralph Strother kept Oakman’s case on the Sept. 10 trial docket but said Mendez will be tried first if possible.
Much of the indecision comes because Mendez’s attorney, Jaime Pena, is expected to file a motion Monday seeking to recuse Strother from hearing the case.
Strother granted Pena a continuance last week from an Aug. 27 trial setting. But Pena said that extension was insufficient, and court officials have said they expect him to file the recusal motion, which could remove the judge from the case and delay the trial further.
In anticipation of the motion, Strother has contacted the regional administrative judge to see if an expedited recusal hearing can be held. If that is possible and Strother is not recused, Mendez will go to trial Sept. 10. If Strother is recused or a hearing cannot be scheduled in a timely manner, Oakman will go to trial Sept. 10.
Pena confirmed Friday that he intends to file a recusal motion and a host of other pretrial motions on Monday.
Attorneys for three bikers previously sought to recuse Strother, with two of them succeeding. McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna filed a motion to recuse Strother on the day of a hearing that Strother declined to postpone and at which Greg Davis, Reyna’s former first assistant, was prepared to testify about what he perceived as Reyna’s “two-tiered system of justice” that Davis said favors Reyna’s friends and political donors.
That motion was denied.
Prosecutors have indicated they will oppose Pena’s recusal motion, if one is filed, despite the fact Reyna and his former first assistant, Michael Jarrett, previously tried to recuse Strother in a Twin Peaks case. Prosecutors are expected to argue that Pena’s motion is not filed in a timely manner and is made improperly for the sole purpose of delay.
Strother has a pretrial hearing in Mendez’s case set for Thursday. 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.
Mendez would be the second Twin Peaks defendant to stand trial. The trial of Jacob Carrizal, the Bandidos Dallas chapter president, ended in a hung jury and mistrial.
A panel of about 130 potential jurors for Mendez’s case reported last week to fill out questionnaires to assist with jury selection. That panel will be dismissed if Oakman’s case goes to trial.
Oakman, recognized as Baylor’s all-time sack leader, said Friday he played 12 games this season with the Bismarck, North Dakota, Bucks of the Champions Indoor Football League. He said he is living again in Waco.
Oakman is charged with sexually assaulting a Baylor student at his apartment in April 2016. He says the encounter was consensual.