Lawyer: Waco prosecutor should be removed from biker case

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The district attorney overseeing the prosecution of more than 150 bikers charged in a melee in Waco last year should be disqualified from the case because he took charge of police officers trying do their jobs that day, a Houston lawyer contends.


A motion filed in court Tuesday - the one-year anniversary of the May 17, 2015, melee that left nine people dead - asked that McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna be removed from the case, along with two assistants, Michael Jarrett and Mark Parker.


Their actions made them potential witnesses who could be subpoenaed to testify at trial, according to the motion filed by lawyer Abigail Anastasio of Houston.

Reyna did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the motion before state District Judge Matt Johnson.

Anastasio, a former Harris County prosecutor, represents Ray Nelson, a Central Texas biker who like others arrested that day is charged with engaging in organized crime. Prosecutors said the shootout began as part of a turf war between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs. If convicted, the defendants face up to life in prison, but so far, no trial dates have been set.

Jeff Pike, former Bandidos Motorcycle Club president, center-right, is greeted by members at the group's 50th anniversary party on March 12 in Kingwood. Photo: Jon Shapley, Staff / © 2015  Houston Chronicle
Photo: Jon Shapley, Staff
Jeff Pike, former Bandidos Motorcycle Club president, center-right, is greeted by members at the group's 50th anniversary party on March 12 in Kingwood.

Prosecutors have said the bikers were planning violence when they met up at the restaurant in a sprawling outdoor shopping mall. Defense lawyers say the overwhelming majority of the bikers were acting in self defense or trying to flee from harm as angry words escalated to gunfire.

The motion filed by Anastasio contends that investigative decisions at the crime scene were not made by police but by prosecutors. Waco police detectives were told that anyone who was a member of the Bandidos or Cossacks - or who showed any support or affiliation with either group - was to be charged with engaging in organized crime as described in an affidavit prepared by the district attorney.

Houston lawyer Paul Looney, who is representing another biker charged in the case, said that while it is "appropriate and helpful" for prosecutors to be at a crime scene to advise officers, it is another matter when they take control of the investigation and direct the officers.

If Reyna and the others are disqualified from the case it would simply mean that other prosecutors, who were not directing the actions of police that day, present the case to the jury, Looney said.

"This isn't a reach, it isn't a stretch, it is basic law," Looney said.

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