Paul Looney, the Houston lawyer who is representing a Cossacks Motorcycle Club member named Cody Ledbetter against a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, dared 19th State District Court Judge Ralph Strother to knock the chip off his shoulder yesterday.
Simultaneously, Dane Schiller of the Houston Chronicle published an 830 word feature about the motion that claimed Looney was “making an offer that he says saves time and money and heads off the ‘quagmire’ of trying to prosecute at least 106 people charged in the case.” Then Looney’s office sent out a press release.
Looney’s thousand word motion argues that the current and future cases created out of air, out of thin air, and blood and heartbreak and ruin and mendacity immediately after the Twin Peaks Massacre last May 17, present “a potential quagmire for the defense bar, the prosecution, the bench, and the taxpayers of McLennan County. At least one hundred and six cases have been indicted on the identical novel legal theory: that the defendants, by arriving at Twin Peaks for a bike-club informational meeting wearing motorcycle jackets bearing the insignia of either the Cossacks or Bandidos Motorcycle Clubs, were making a ‘show of force’ for a ‘criminal street gang,’ and therefore were guilty of participating in organized criminal activity. The defendant’s indictment and the examining trials of his co-defendant William English both reflect this theory (as do the other one hundred five indictments released along with the Defendant’s, all of which are virtually identical other than the name and cause numbers involved.) It is a theory that does not appear to have ever before been presented to a Texas court.”
Maybe Not First Rodeo
Maybe it hasn’t been presented in a Texas court before, but it is certainly well established in biker cases in the federal courts. A sampling of those cases from the last few years might begin with US v. Szpyt et al.; US v. Nagi et al.; US v. Cavazos et al.; US v. Maestas et al.; US v. Ablett; US v. Mongols Nation; US v. Kotschuck et al.; US v. Barbeito et al.; US v Bowser et al.; and US v. Bifield et al. There are many more. They are all conspiracy cases including the one man conspiracy of Christopher “Stoney” Ablett. Looney is defending a conspiracy case. He is a bright man so he probably already understands that this is a “tail wagging a dog” case. He already seems to understand that the point of this prosecution is to use judicial prosecution as a form of extrajudicial punishment, And yesterday’s motion clearly signals that Looney thinks it would be nice if Waco stopped being so mean.
When Ledbetter does get his week, or day or 15 minutes, in court many biker experts will testify that his client and all the other lawyers’ clients were members, as these prosecutors will put it, of the Bandidos/Cossacks/Rebel Riders/Scimitars/insert other club name here “criminal gang” that “commits, attempts and threatens to commit acts of violence including murder to protect and expand the gang’s criminal operation, promote a climate of fear, and maintain control and authority of the (insert club name here) over the territory claimed by the (insert club name here) and expanding that territory and protecting and expanding the power of the (insert club name here) through the use of intimidation, violence, threats of violence, assault and murder; promoting and enhancing the authority of the (insert club name here) members and associates.”
At least publically, Looney seems to assume that his client must be found innocent because Ledbetter didn’t actually commit a crime and because he had an innocent mind. The fairy tale lawyers learn in their graduate schools is summed up by the Latin lie Actus Reus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea: Which can be roughly translated as, “If you’re just playing at being an outlaw it don’t count.” One can only hope that privately Looney and all the other defenders have been out in the real world long enough to get it that that is not how the justice casino works.
In his “Request For Earliest Possible Trial Setting” Looney argues, “Someone must go first; and the sooner that occurs, the better for all involved. This Defendant is prepared to proceed to a jury trial without delay. No motions, beyond routine motions-in-limine, need to drafted or litigated. This Defendant is satisfied to go to a McLennan County jury and does not believe it necessary to seek a change in venue. The primary issues in this case are legal ones; there are few disputed facts. In short, the Defendant seeks to go to trial as quickly as possible, as a sort of ‘test case,’ allowing his case to proceed before this Court, and before the appellate courts if necessary, in order to determine the validity, or lack thereof, of the State’s theory. The Defendant believes that most, if not all, relevant discovery has been provided and any outstanding discovery that the State must turn over can be provided quickly, allowing for trial at the earliest possible setting.”
The least anyone of good conscience can do is wish Looney and Ledbetter good luck with that.