By Jeff Smith
Thirty defense attorneys representing most of the 106 people charged in connection with the deadly Waco Twin Peaks shootout are asking for charges to be dropped.
The May 17 shootout between rival biker clubs left nine people dead and 18 more hospitalized with stab or gunshot wounds. Police arrested 177 bikers after the shooting, and all of them had bond set at $1 million.
Last week, a grand jury indicted 106 of the 177 bikers on charges of organized criminal activity with the intent to commit or conspire to commit murder, capital murder or aggravated assault. It's a first-degree felony charge.
The grand jury is still deciding whether to indict the others.
The defense attorneys who met Thursday said their clients did not plan, encourage or participate in any violence, and they are not gang members.
The attorneys said their clients came to Twin Peaks to attend a well-publicized meeting for all motorcycle clubs across the state, where riders could socialize, eat and talk about upcoming legislation.
The attorneys said once detectives learned their biker clients were hiding for cover during the violent shootout, they should never have been arrested.
"I have no problem if police want to detain and question, that's their job. But they didn't detain and question. They just arrested en masse and set a bond at $1 million. There's a huge difference between detain and investigate, and arrest," said Dallas-based criminal defense attorney Susan Anderson, who is representing a group of accused bikers.
Just within the last two days, at least six of the indicted bikers have filed lawsuits against the police and district attorney in federal court, alleging their civil rights were violated by being falsely arrested with template-based "fill-in-the-name" indictments.
Attorney Clinton Broden said the "template affidavits" contained allegations that were demonstrably false for most of the bikers who were part of the group rounded up and arrested.
Several people spent more than three weeks in jail, and at least one person spent 40 days locked up.
"I speculate there will be more," said attorney Susan Criss, representing several of the indicted bikers. "Each defendant has to decide what case they have and what their damages are. It's an individual decision that has yet to be made by many people. But I'd be shocked if there wasn't more civil cases coming soon."
No one has been charged with murdering anyone. The 106 indictments are about criminal conspiracy.
"In order to be guilty of the offense of engaging in organized crime, you have to be more than merely present. It doesn't matter what you're wearing. It doesn't matter who you're associating with," Anderson said. "The issue is whether or not these people met for the purpose of criminal activity."
Anderson said rather than investigate who was armed during the shootout, police sold a story to the media about rival gang members agreeing to meet at the restaurant to settle a turf-war with violence. She said that mentality led to unwarranted arrests, with "identical fill-in-the-name" arrest affidavits.
"We have extreme serious concerns about the process at every single step of the way," said attorney Susan Criss. "You don't just indict everybody and say, 'Let's go to trial and we'll sort it out.'"