It is unlikely that any of the Waco Twin Peaks criminal conspiracy cases will be resolved before Monday, July 31, 2017. That is the date when federal prosecutors now must present their witness lists to defense attorneys in a federal racketeering case titled United States v. Portillo et al.
That indictment in that case never once mentions the Waco biker brawl of May 17, 2015 but charges former Bandidos vice president John Xavier Portillo, former club president Jeffrey Fay Pike, sergeant at arms Justin Cole Forster and club member Frederick Cortez with “various overt racketeering acts including…War with Cossacks Outlaw Motorcycle Organization.”
The federal indictment references many of the same alleged incidents between members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club and the Cossacks Motorcycle Club that were cited in police documents to explain the large presence of state and local police at the Twin Peaks the day an altercation between Cossacks and Bandidos ended with nine deaths. One hundred seventy-seven mostly provably innocent people were almost immediately arrested for criminal conspiracy. The incidents both the federal indictment and the Waco police reports name include a Cossacks’ assault of a Bandido “on the side of the roadway in Lorena, Texas on March 22, 2015.”
The state prosecution in Waco effectively presents a firewall to prevent disclosure of any reports of investigation or other details of a federal infiltration of either the Bandidos or Cossacks Motorcycle Clubs. Since the War on Global Terror commenced in 2001, all policing in the United States has been federalized. Most major prosecutions of motorcycle club members, virtually all prosecutions of brand-name motorcycle clubs, and the current prosecution of Bandidos club officers and an ongoing investigation of the Cossacks have been initiated by one of four federal police forces either acting alone or in concert. Those agencies are the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Agency; and the Department of Homeland Security.
Local police departments like Waco’s simply do not undertake investigations of major motorcycle clubs. When state police forces, like Texas’ Department of Public Safety investigate motorcycle club their actions are always on behalf of, funded by and in cooperation with federal police. Motorcycle club investigations usually occur in chains with one investigation leading into another. Until recently, the ATF has taken pains to brag about this way of doing things in books by former agents like William Queen and Jay Dobyns and by former professional informants like Charles Falco and in television programs based on those books.
It is absurd to think that McLennan County District Attorney Abelino Reyna would have decided to arrest everybody who might be linked by their bumper stickers to either the Cossacks or Bandidos clubs without at least informing the local federal prosecutor. It is even possible that a federal prosecutor called Reyna. The number and capriciousness of the arrests greatly complicated the case and impeded any independent investigation into the event. The best place to hide a leaf is in a forest. The best place to hide a needle is in a haystack. The best place to hide the truth is in a case like the one against the Bandits.
Tick, Tick, Tick
Provably, statements made by local officials like W. Patrick Swanton after the arrests were intended to support a misleading narrative about what had happened that caused nine men to die and who was to blame. The underlying charge against all 154 people who have been indicted so far is murder and there is no statute of limitations on that. If McLennan County tries six Waco defendants a year the case will take 25 years to resolve. Unless Waco prosecutors decide to indict another 40 people. Then the case will take 31 years to resolve, starting whenever prosecutors start holding trials, if they ever do.
Meanwhile the statue of limitations for naming a defendant in a federal lawsuit for false arrest and false imprisonment is two years. So complainants in the various civil rights suits for false arrest that have already been filed will only have until November 17, 2017 to name everyone they intend to sue – including presumably the Texas DPS and the federal police forces who told DPS what to do.
The Bandidos indictment is very cute about what it reveals and what it conceals. For example, it states: “On or about May 23, 2015, John Portillo raised Bandidos OMO dues and support club ‘donations’ to prepare to pay for bonds and legal expenses for Bandidos OMO members would go to jail for ‘club business,’ including criminal acts committed against members f the Cossacks OMO. Bandidos OMO members were required to pay $100 per month rather than $50, and support club members were required to pay $50 per month.”
Federal prosecutors have no qualms about using the Bandidos lawful and reasonable reaction to the Twin Peaks shootout and the unlawful arrests of Bandidos members against the club. Statements made in the indictment and elsewhere indicate that federal agents were at least monitoring rising tensions between the two clubs both before and after the shootout. The federal government, not Waco or Texas but Uncle Sugar, was trying to build a racketeering case against the Bandidos that included that club’s “war” with the Cossacks. It certainly would have strengthened the government’s case if the Bandidos could have been enticed to overreact against the Cossacks. And the ATF, in particular, regularly runs “sting operations” that are colored by what the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice recently called “poor management, insufficient training and guidance to agents in the field, and a lax organizational culture.”
The Waco Tribune-Herald in particular has written about the unreasonableness of concluding that what happened at the Twin Peaks was a federal operation gone wrong – as the assault on the Branch-Davidian compound and the so-called “gun-walking” scandal were botched federal operations. As the ATF investigation and prosecution of the Pagans in 2009 was botched. As the ATF investigation and prosecution of the Sons of Silence in 1999 was botched. It is not unreasonable to speculate that if it quacks it probably isn’t a water buffalo.
You also don’t exactly need to be Sherlock Holmes or Edward R. Murrow to notice how federal prosecutors have reacted to the Twin Peaks tragedy – without a single press release. Not one. Even when they announced in January that the Bandidos had “declared war” on the Cossacks, federal prosecutors never uttered or wrote “Twin Peaks” once. Why? Because they don’t want to besmirch Abel Reyna’s airtight case against Morgan English?
For the last 16 months federal police have certainly behaved as if they have something to hide and the city behind which they have decided to hide is Waco. As of now, the trial in the federal Bandidos isn’t scheduled to start until August 2017. One result of this long delay is that attorneys in the false arrest lawsuits will only have 109 days, at most – and only if federal prosecutors in this case are more transparent and forthcoming than federal prosecutors usually are – to determine whom to sue.
Justice delayed is always justice denied.