By TOMMY WITHERSPOON firstname.lastname@example.org
The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed three more Twin Peaks cases Monday, bringing the number of dismissals of the 155 indicted to 121.
Other cases would have been dismissed Monday, but 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother was not available to sign them, court officials said.
Judge Matt Johnson signed off Monday afternoon on the dismissals of Thomas Paul Landers, Christopher M. Stainton and Michael Herring. They were among a handful of bikers who were still under indictment for engaging in organized criminal activity, which was the original charge for all 155 indictments.
The DA’s office obtained superseding indictments last week against 24 bikers charged in the shootout at the former restaurant on May 17, 2015 that left nine dead and 20 injured. Most were re-indicted on riot charges, while three were charged with murder and some also were charged with tampering with physical evidence.
The re-indictments reflect a shift in prosecutorial direction. The identical charges of engaging in organized criminal activity will not be pursued against the 24 who were re-indicted last week.
Austin attorney Millie Thompson, who represents Landers, said she is pleased with the dismissal but not with the wording used by prosecutors to justify dismissing the case.
Prosecutors wrote in the dismissals that while a grand jury found probable cause to justify arrests and indictments of the bikers, they are dismissing the cases to focus on what they are calling “more culpable” defendants.
Thompson said she asked prosecutors to allow her to be present when any dismissal motions were filed against Landers so she could challenge the wording used. She said the dismissal’s assertion that probable cause existed for her client’s initial arrest will make it difficult or impossible to get the charge expunged from Landers’ record.
A special prosecutor who dismissed former biker Matthew Clendennen’s case three weeks ago said no probable cause existed and Clendennen should never have been arrested. That will make it easier for Clendennen to get his case expunged, Thompson said.
Landers, of Georgetown, is a founding member of the Escondidos motorcycle group and an active motorcyclist rights advocate. Thompson said the criminal charges cost him a six-figure sales job with a produce company. He got a new job in sales but with far lower pay, she said.
Landers was part of a trio of bikers who got 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother recused from their cases last year. He also filed a motion to recuse District Attorney Abel Reyna from handling the case.
Stainton, is also an Escondidos member from Georgetown, while Herring, of Dallas, was a member of the Desgraciados motorcycle club.
Thompson echoed the words of other attorneys for Twin Peaks bikers who said the DA’s office “did it backward” by arresting 177 bikers en masse before they investigated the case.
Last week, Strother and Johnson signed dismissals in 62 cases, the largest of several rounds of recent dismissals filed by prosecutors in the Twin Peaks cases.