Yesterday, in an email sent to Waco, Texas television stations KCEN and KWTX, but apparently not to the Waco Tribune-Herald or any major market news outlet, prosecutors in the Twin Peaks case announced that the release of evidence vital to the criminal defense of the 154 men indicted so far will be “briefly delayed” while Waco police – not the FBI or the federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force – “do a full review and investigation” of what, according to Jim Hice of KCEN, amounts to “thousands of images of child pornography found on the cell phones of bikers involved in the Twin Peaks shootings.”
Possession, distribution and receipt of child pornography using a telephonic device is a federal crime under Title 18 Section 2252 of the United States Code.
According to Hice, Waco police “recovered 206 cell phones and five other electronic devices” during the mass arrests of witnesses to a brief, violent brawl at the Waco Twin Peaks 607 days ago. Hice doesn’t report which ones contained images of child exploitation.
The Twin Peaks brawl resulted in nine deaths. Five of the dead were killed by police. Eighteen men were wounded. One hundred seventy-seven people were illegally arrested and held on $1 million bonds. Multiple defense attorneys have been trying ever since to get their clients tried so they can prove their innocence.
Eighteen people are suing various Waco and state officials for false arrest. A federal judge named Sam Sparks has ruled that none of those civil cases can proceed until the criminal charges against the complainants have been disproven. Six additional lawsuits in state court are also on hold until Waco prosecutors release all the evidence in the case. There are an additional three dozen defendants who were arrested on May 17, 2015 but who have not yet been either cleared or indicted..
Throughout the duration of this frozen case, police and public officials in Waco and surrounding McLennan County, including county prosecutor Abelino Reyna, have repeatedly lied about what happened before, during and after the brawl. Reyna and other officials have also deliberately obstructed the course of justice. In November, Judge Matt Johnson announced that a defendant named James Rosas would begin trial 11 days from now. At the New Year, Judge Ralph Strother announced that the first trial in the case would begin on April 17.
In general, defense attorneys are reluctant to proceed to trial until they have seen all of the state’s evidence against their clients.
The announcement of the discovery of “thousands” of pornographic images on devices seized from the arrestees seems to be cynically intended to both prejudice potential jurors and further delay justice.
So far Reyna has discovered, or released, seven batches of potential evidence to defense attorneys in the case. Multiple batches of discovered evidence have exceeded one terabyte of data each. Each batch of evidence is comprised of a confusion of documents, reports, photographs and audio and video files. Most of the “evidence” discovered to defense attorneys is irrelevant to their clients’ cases. The release of extreme amounts of unorganized data is a common prosecutorial tactic called an “evidence dump.” Evidence dumps are intended to overwhelm and confuse defenders and are done to better secure convictions against innocent defendants.
The alleged child pornography was discovered in evidence batch six and caused that particular pile of information to be recalled by prosecutors last September.
If there is child pornography on some of the electronic devices seized during the Twin Peaks arrests, it is probably not admissible as evidence in any subsequent child porn case. The phones were searched after a warrant was issued but most appeals courts would probably rule that the search warrants were issued without valid probable cause.