The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed two more Twin Peaks shootout cases on Monday, four days before a jury panel in the cases was scheduled to report to court.
The dismissals, signed by prosecutor Michael Jarrett, say that while probable cause remains in the cases against Cody Ledbetter and George Bergman, the state is focusing on more culpable defendants in the Twin Peaks shootout, which left nine dead and dozens injured.
“I can finally put this behind me,” Ledbetter said Monday. “This takes a lot of weight off of me.”
Jarrett filed the motion to dismiss Ledbetter’s case Monday morning. After that, 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson set Bergman’s case for the same day so he could use the same jury panel that was set to come in Friday for Ledbetter’s case.
Within hours of the new trial setting, the district attorney’s office sent a motion over to dismiss Bergman’s case, also. Johnson later dismissed the jury panel set to convene on Friday.
Ledbetter, a 28-year-old diesel mechanic with no criminal record, and his attorney, Paul Looney, of Houston, eagerly snatched up the April 2 trial date that had been reserved for the retrial of Jacob Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter, whose trial in November ended in mistrial.
Carrizal, who has a new attorney, asked the court last month for more time for his attorney to prepare.
Ledbetter, who has said he has been ready to go to trial for almost three years because he didn’t commit a crime, witnessed his stepfather, Daniel Boyett, get shot during the May 2015 brawl at the former Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco between two rival biker groups. Boyett died from his wounds.
“Give me a break,” Looney said Monday after learning of the dismissal. “Cody never should have been filed on in the first place. He has had this case hanging over his head for three years and when we finally get a trial setting, they say never mind. That is just cruel beyond description. My client has lived with the thought of 15 years to life in prison for nearly three years on a case I guess they never prepared for trial or never intended to prepare for trial.”
Neither McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna nor Jarrett returned phone messages Monday.
Looney, who called the Twin Peaks cases “the most bizarre saga in the history of American criminal law,” added that he is happy for Ledbetter but “just repulsed at the system.”
“It looks like they have mishandled this case to the point that nine people died and nobody gets prosecuted. How bizarre. This is an impossible outcome. That can’t be the case, but it looks like they are going to end up there,” he said.
The first Twin Peaks case to go to trial was Carrizal’s. It ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked. What was supposed to be the second trial was postponed for at least 180 days in an agreement between the state and defense after Bergman, a former Desgraciados member from Wills Point, rejected a plea offer for misdemeanor deferred probation. Now his case has been dismissed.
Dallas attorney Clint Broden, who represents Bergman, said Bergman “called the state’s bluff” by turning down the misdemeanor offer, leading to the dismissal.
“Regrettably, in an effort to protect various parties from civil liability, the state’s motion includes self-serving language claiming that it believed probable cause existed for this prosecution in the first place,” Broden said. “In fact, Mr. Bergman is absolutely innocent of the charges and the state knows it. Had he not been innocent the state never would have offered him a misdemeanor plea for an offense that originally carried a sentence of life imprisonment.
“So, while the state cannot bring itself to admit it for reasons related to its civil liability, the state knows Mr. Bergman is innocent and is really not fooling anybody. Indeed, video evidence that has been available to the state for more than two years establishes that Mr. Bergman just arrived at Twin Peaks when the shooting started and that he immediately ran and took cover in the Don Carlos parking lot,” he said.
Broden said Bergman is ready to put the Twin Peaks saga behind him and hopes “the actions of Mr. Reyna’s office and the farce that he created has not made it impossible to prosecute those who are truly guilty of causing the violence.”
Looney filed a motion to disqualify Reyna in October after it was discovered that the DA’s office released videos from Ledbetter’s cellphone that showed Ledbetter and his wife having sex. The videos were sent to more than 125 attorneys as part of the massive Twin Peaks discovery process.
Looney said he didn’t pursue the motion before because he didn’t want to postpone Ledbetter’s day in court. But now, Looney says, he will refile a motion seeking to force the DA’s office to recall the videos.
“We are going to have to go into court and have to do some battle over the fact that they disseminated private pictures of my client and his wife, and they are not inclined to try to get them back, either. It is a violation for every day they are out there and it is a horrendous violation of human dignity. It is totally a crime to send those videos out and a violation for every day it is out there and for every person they give it to. If those violations are stacked, they could go to jail until their kids are out of college,” Looney said.
In response to other Twin Peaks biker attorneys filing similar motions, Reyna has 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.
Ledbetter, a former Cossack from Waco, was on the patio with his arm in a sling when the shooting started and ran for cover with others. He had no weapon with him that day, and drove a pickup to Twin Peaks because of his shoulder injury, Looney said.