Texas Congressman Won’t Run Again After Nude Photo Leak

November 30, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – U.S.  Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said Thursday he will not seek re-election next year, one day after a constituent accused him of sending her inappropriate private messages on Facebook and a week after his nude sexting photo was posted online.

The Republican had insisted he would seek an 18th term in Congress next year after apologizing for the nude image. He appears to have changed his mind after Kelly Canon came forward Wednesday with screenshots of sexual messages she received about four years ago during a Facebook conversation.

“So … that means u r wearing a tank top only… and not panties? right now?” Barton allegedly asked.

“Ok thats enough,” Canon replied. “You know my attire! Good night…..”

A message a few days later from Barton allegedly read, “wanna tell me what u r wearing or not wearing tonight miss sweet dreams.” Canon says she replied, “still in my ‘regular’ clothes!”

Barton has represented the 6th District of Texas since 1985. The district includes the suburbs of Ennis, Mansfield and Arlington near Dallas and Fort Worth. Barton’s current term expires in January 2019. He thanked his constituents for their “support and friendship,” but did not mention the allegations against him.

“I am very proud of my public record and the many accomplishments of my office,” Barton said in a statement. “It has been a tremendous honor to represent the 6th District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice.”

Barton said his slogan as a young congressman was “listening to you in Texas, working for you in Washington,” and that it was a way of life for him.

Barton is among several lawmakers who are facing allegations of inappropriate behavior towards women, including U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., U.S. Rep. John Conyers, R-Mich., and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, R-Ala.

The claims come amidst a deluge of allegations of sexual misconduct against men in positions of power that has claimed the jobs of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, journalists Charlie Rose and Matt Laurer and music executive Russell Simmons, among others.

Barton told The Dallas Morning News he believes he could still win re-election, but that it would be a “nasty campaign” that would be “difficult” for his family.

He said he made up his mind to not seek re-election on Wednesday and not because of the growing calls from fellow Republicans for him to step aside.

“I’m at peace with it,” he said. “I’m not happy about what’s gone on. But I did do the things and I’ve always been truthful … You have to be accountable for your actions, and I’m trying to do that.”

Barton repeated earlier claims that he is the victim of “revenge porn” and said an investigation is underway.

Canon said Thursday she is “glad he came to his senses” in not seeking re-election.
“I’m a little disheartened that it took me coming forward to make him realize it’s more than just a picture,” she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s a pattern.”

Canon said she never completely shut down the conversations she had with Barton because she is politically active and wanted an open line of communication with him.

“He is my congressman,” she told NBC-affiliate KXAS on Wednesday. “This is an effort not only to get him to not run again, but to get other people – but to get other women – to come forward, too.”

From Courthouse News.

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Johnson & Johnson Ordered to Pay $247M for Defective Hip Implants

November 16, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A Texas federal jury slapped DePuy Orthopaedics and corporate parent Johnson & Johnson with a $247 million verdict Thursday over its Pinnacle artificial hips that injured six, handing the companies their third consecutive costly loss on the implants.

The jury unanimously concluded after a two-month trial that the metal-on-metal hip implants had design and manufacturing defects and that the companies knew about the flaws but failed to warn patients. The six injured New York plaintiffs sued for products liability, deceptive business practices and fraud in 2015.

The jury awarded Ramon Alicea, Uriel Barzel, Karen Kirschner, Hazel Miura, Eugene Stevens Jr. and Michael Stevens approximately $79 million in actual damages and $168 million in punitive damages.

The plaintiffs alleged they were forced to have their implants removed after suffering from bone erosion, tissue death and poisoning from metal debris, among other things. Their case is among the 8,000 that were assigned to U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas under multidistrict litigation.

DePuy stopped selling Pinnacle implants in 2013, three years after it recalled similar metal-on-metal ASR hip implants after reports of high failure rates.

Thursday’s verdict comes on the heels of two other bellwether losses for Johnson & Johnson and DePuy. The companies were slapped with a $1 billion Pinnacle verdict in December 2016.

The Dallas federal jury in that case also concluded the implants were defective and that the companies failed to warn of the risks, awarding $32 million in actual damages and over $1 billion in punitive damages to six California plaintiffs. Judge Kinkeade reduced the jury award to $500 million one month later, citing due process concerns with a massive punitive damages award that went beyond a “single-digit multiplier” of actual damages.

In March 2016, a separate Dallas federal jury awarded five Texas plaintiffs $498 million.

In the first Pinnacle case to go to trial in October 2014, a Dallas federal jury cleared the companies of products liability, negligence and Montana Consumer Protection Act allegations and awarded a female plaintiff nothing.

Houston attorney W. Mark Lanier represents the plaintiffs in all three victories against Johnson & Johnson and DePuy.

“We thank this jury for sending a very strong message about the responsibility the defendants have to take care of their consumers,” Lanier said in a statement after Thursday’s verdict.

DePuy spokesperson Stella Meirelles said in a statement after the verdict the company will “immediately begin the appeal process and remain committed to the long-term defense” against the lawsuits. She said the implants were supported by a strong record of clinical data showing their effectiveness.

Defense attorney John H. Beisner, with Skadden Arps in Washington, D.C., said in a statement after the verdict that the trial “was a disservice to everyone involved because the verdict will do nothing to advance the ultimate resolution of this six-year-old litigation.”

From Courthouse News.

Fired Dallas Prosecutor Apologizes for Rant on Uber Driver

November 14, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A tearful former Dallas County prosecutor apologized Tuesday for an embarrassing audio recording of her insulting, swearing at and flaunting her powers at an Uber driver that resulted in her firing, but denied insulting his job or striking him.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson fired Jody Warner, 32, on Monday, after Uber driver Shaun Platt, 26, came forward with the recording from Nov. 10. He accuses Warner of berating him with expletives, slapping him on the shoulder and accusing him of kidnapping her after he ended the ride, called police and asked her repeatedly to exit his car.

“I want to apologize for my language, to the district attorney’s office, for embarrassing the office that I love very much and respect very much,” Warner told reporters at a press conference outside of the Frank Crowley Courts Building. “I embarrassed my family, I embarrassed myself. That is not who I am.”

Johnson said Warner’s behavior “is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated.” Warner worked in the office for six years and prosecuted cases in the crimes against children unit.

Warner told reporters she did not publicly respond earlier due to the district attorney office’s media policy. She said she did not wish to make any accusations against “that driver,” saying she did not know what was in his heart.

“I can tell you not everything he said was true,” Warner said. “I never touched him, whether it is because of my experience as a prosecutor made me hyper vigilant or if I was justifiably uncomfortable, I can’t tell you that. I can just tell you what was in my heart.”

In Platt’s audio recording, a woman is heard calling him “a legitimate retard” and repeatedly telling him she is an assistant district attorney. She is heard accusing Platt of committing a “third-to-first degree felony” by asking her to get out of his car and not taking her to her destination.

Platt said Warner appeared drunk when he picked her up and that the problems began when she told him to drive in a different direction than his GPS program instructed him. He said she refused to respond to follow-up questions on where to drive, became “increasingly angry” and hurled insults.

The woman is heard warning Platt he was “going to regret this so much,” calling him a “[expletive] idiot in a stupid [expletive] hat” and telling him to “shut the [expletive] up.”

Warner acknowledged she had been drinking, which is why she took the Uber ride. She says she “finally snapped” when Platt was close to her home and turned down a different street than what his GPS program instructed.

“I never belittled him for being an Uber driver,” Warner said while wiping away tears. “I’m not someone who thinks I am above anyone. I went to law school to be a prosecutor, I love this job.

“I’m very sorry for the language that I used. I’m very sorry to the community of Dallas County, I have tried very hard to serve you in a way that would make everyone proud.”

Warner was flanked by attorneys Peter Schulte, George Milner and Elizabeth Frizell, a former state district judge who resigned this year to run for Johnson’s office. In supporting Warner, the trio questioned whether Johnson acted too hastily in firing her.

“If people are going to be fired from working for the state of Texas in this office, you have got to let us know what the ground rules are,” Schulte said.

Frizell backed up Warner’s claim that her concern was heightened, saying she is supporting her because she is an “excellent prosecutor.”

From Courthouse News.

Dallas DA Fires Prosecutor After Incident With Uber Driver

November 14, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A Texas district attorney fired a prosecutor late Monday after a lost Uber driver recorded her allegedly insulting him, threatening his job and flaunting her powers during a ride last week.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said she fired Jody Warner, 32, after Uber driver Shaun Platt, 26, came forward. He accuses Warner of berating him with insults, slapping him on the shoulder and accusing him of kidnapping her after he ended the ride and called police, The Dallas Morning News reported, with a link to the driver’s audio recording.

“After careful consideration and a thorough investigation, I have decided to terminate Ms. Warner,” Johnson said in a statement. “Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated. As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom. I will not waiver on my expectation of the highest integrity for myself or my staff.”

Warner worked for the district attorney’s office for six years and prosecuted cases in the crimes against children unit. Johnson urged the public to “look beyond this incident” and understand that prosecutors work hard to seek justice on citizens’ behalf.

In the audio recording made by Platt, a woman is heard telling Platt he is an idiot.

“You are a legitimate retard,” the woman says. “What a joke.”

The woman seemed to be upset that Platt ended the ride before reaching her destination and that he called police. Platt is heard calmly asking her several times to leave his car.

“So you’re kidnapping me,” the woman said.

“I’m not kidnapping you,” Platt responded.

“So under the law, it’s recklessly keeping me from where I was going and you have done that,” the woman said. “You’re kidnapping me. You’re committing a third-to-first degree felony.”

Platt says Warner appeared drunk when he picked her up and that she became more upset as he tried to initiate small talk. He said the problems began when she told him to drive in a different direction than his GPS program instructed him. He says she refused to respond to follow-up questions on where to drive, became “increasingly angry” and hurled insults.

“I said, ‘Nope, that’s it,’ and I pulled over on the side of the road,” Platt said. “I wanted the cops to show up so they could do something about it. But I didn’t call the cops. I gave her a chance and she kept saying she was a DA and I didn’t want to get her in trouble.”

The woman is heard warning Platt he was “going to regret this so much,” calling him a “[expletive] idiot in a stupid [expletive] hat” and telling him to “shut the [expletive] up.”

Warner denied striking Platt in a statement to Good Morning America.

“I cringe whenever I hear or think about the things that I said that night,” she said. “It was unacceptable, and no one deserves to be called names. That being said, the audio doesn’t tell you that I was in a situation that made me feel very uncomfortable and I became defensive and eventually angry. I never assaulted my driver or touched him in any way. All I wanted to do was get home safely that night.”

From Courthouse News.

Biker’s Testimony Leads to Waco Shootout Mistrial

November 13, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – A Texas judge declared a mistrial Friday in the case of the Dallas leader of the Bandidos motorcycle gang involved in a deadly 2015 shootout with rival Cossacks at a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” that killed nine and injured 20.

Halfway through their second day of deliberations, the McLennan County jury convinced state District Judge Matt Johnson they were hopelessly deadlocked in the case against Jacob “Jake” Carrizal, 35, of Dallas. He was charged on two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity and one count of directing organized criminal activity. More than 150 people were charged after the shooting, with Carrizal being the first to go to trial. He faced up to life in state prison.

The jury first informed Johnson they were deadlocked as early as Thursday evening, where they spent sequestered at a hotel. The judge urged them to continue. They again informed Johnson they were deadlocked by lunchtime on Friday, a county holiday for Veterans Day.

Dressed in a dark blazer and light blue shirt, the heavily-tattooed and bearded Carrizal hugged his supporters and family members as the mistrial was announced.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the mistrial afterwards. Carrizal remains free on bond as they considered if and when they will retry the case.

Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, of San Antonio, credited her client testifying on his own behalf for swaying the jurors against conviction.

“Jake took the stand and the jury loved hearing from him,” she said afterward. “The evidence was insufficient for a conviction.”

During the five-week long trial, prosecutors portrayed Carrizal as getting his bikers ready for violence before a biker coalition summit at the Waco restaurant where the Cossacks were not invited. They called witnesses who testified he told fellow Bandidos to bring their guns, to not travel alone, to leave their women at home and to not tolerate disrespect. They argued the dispute was over the Cossacks wearing the “Texas” bottom rocker patches on their vests without permission from the Bandidos, who claim Texas as their territory.

Gotro flatly disagreed, arguing that it was the Cossacks who started the shootout, that they showed up wearing bulletproof vests and ambushed the Bandidos before they could dismount their motorcycles.

During two days of testimony in his own defense, Carrizal steadfastly denied that he is a criminal or that he is a member of a criminal gang. He downplayed the tough guy persona assumed by bikers that raises the suspicions of law enforcement and the general public, saying the lifestyle is more of a lifelong brotherhood. He noted how the Bandidos often holds charity toy runs for children.

Carrizal denied allegations that he was the one who started shooting, saying he only began shooting in self defense. A former Twin Peaks employee testified last month that the shooting started when a man in a “big yellow helmet” pulled a large “Dirty Harry” gun and shot a biker in front of him. Carrizal’s brother, Chuck Carrizal, later testified his brother owned a yellow biker helmet.

Carrizal admitted under cross-examination by Assistant McLennan County District Attorney Michael Jarrett that he was wearing a yellow helmet, but that there was at least one other person there with a yellow helmet.

He also admitted to lying to police at first about his helmet and about being armed, claiming he was afraid for himself and still coming to terms with what happened.

Carrizal’s defense only lasted three days after Gotro repeatedly complained that prosecutors and law enforcement deliberately failed to turn over evidence. Judge Johnson was forced to recess trial for several days on Nov. 1 after Waco police produced new audio interview evidence. In subsequent motions for continuance and for the charges to be dropped, Gotro argued the new evidence shows the “Texas” bottom rockers were not the cause of the shootout and that it changed how she would have cross-examined prosecution witnesses.

From Courthouse News.

Biker Tells Jury He Acted in Self-Defense at Waco Shootout

November 8, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – An emotional Dallas leader of the Bandidos motorcycle gang testified on his own behalf Tuesday in a case over a deadly shootout with rivals, denying he is part of a criminal gang and claiming he fired in self-defense.

Jacob Carrizal, the first biker to be prosecuted for his alleged role in the May 17, 2015, Twin Peaks shootout heads to court Wednesday Oct.11, 2017, in Waco, Texas. (Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

Jacob “Jake” Carrizal, 35, of Dallas, is charged with two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity and one count of directing organized criminal activity in the violent shootout with the Cossacks gang at a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” in Waco on May 17, 2015. Nine bikers died and 20 were injured.

More than 150 people were charged in the aftermath of the shootout. Carrizal is the first to go to trial. He faces up to life in state prison if convicted.

Carrizal told his attorney, Casie Gotro, under direct examination Tuesday that he only shot Cossack member Jacob Rhyne because Rhyne pointed a gun at him. Rhyne later died from his injuries. He said the dispute started when his group of Bandidos tried to park at the restaurant and Cossacks surrounded them and said they could not park there.

Carrizal said he was surprised so many Cossacks were at the biker coalition meeting, and that the Cossacks are not members. He blamed the Cossacks showing up uninvited for causing the violence.

“I was surrounded,” he said. “Not just a few, there were dozens.”

Carrizal said punches were soon thrown and he tried to get away while his helmet’s face shield was being torn away. He said the Cossacks tried to punch him with brass knuckles.

“I was in the middle of a pile,” he said. “I remember waiting for a knife to go into me or a bullet to hit me. I knew I was fighting and I knew it was coming.”

Carrizal defended the Bandidos, saying the group does not condone violence and it often performs charity toy runs. He described the Bandidos as more of a lifelong brotherhood, admitting he had violated conditions of his bond to speak with other Bandidos.

“I am being judged by everyone in here and everyone on that camera,” he said. “I can expect no mercy from society, I am a Bandido and I looked like a criminal so I expect no mercy from anyone else.”

Prosecutors argue the dispute between the motorcycle gangs that sparked the shootout revolved around the Cossacks starting to wear “Texas” bottom rocker patches on their vests without permission from the Bandidos, who claim the state as their territory.

Carrizal said that after he got away from the pile, he found his wounded father, fellow Bandido Christopher Carrizal, and broke down as his father told him to take care of his family.

Carrizal also admitted under direct examination that he lied to police about not having a gun because he had never been in trouble with the law before. He credited police present at the restaurant for opening fire when the shooting started, saying they saved lives – including his, twice.

Assistant McLennan County District Attorney Michael Jarrett criticized Carrizal’s testimony about the Bandidos’ charitable work, asking him on cross-examination how many toy runs would make up for the nine deaths during the shootout.

Carrizal’s testimony will continue on Wednesday, with the jury expected to begin deliberations by the end of the week. It comes at the end of a tumultuous week where his attorney accusedprosecutors of illegally withholding evidence through the trial.

From Courthouse News.

Texas Judge Won’t Drop Charges in Biker Shootout Trial

October 7, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – A Texas judge refused Monday to drop charges against a Dallas leader of the Bandidos motorcycle gang after defense attorneys argued the prosecution had been intentionally withholding evidence in the case over a restaurant shootout that killed nine bikers.

McLellan County District Court Judge Matt Johnson rejected the motion by Casie Gotro, attorney for Jacob “Jake” Carrizal, 35, of Dallas, who is charged with two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity and one count of directing organized criminal activity in the violent shootout with the rival Cossacks gang at a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” in Waco on May 17, 2015. Nine bikers died and 20 were injured.

Gotro’s request came five days after the judge abruptly recessed the trial due to new audio evidence turned over hours earlier by police. Johnson granted a defense motion for continuance on Nov. 1 so Gotro could identify a police officer speaking during the recorded interview.

The prosecution rested its case minutes before the recess was ordered. The judge had given police until Nov. 3 to turn over any remaining evidence to the defense despite concerns about privileged information within the statements.

Prosecutors contend the dispute between the motorcycle gangs that sparked the shootout revolved around the Cossacks starting to wear “Texas” bottom rocker patches on their vests without permission from the Bandidos, who claim the state as their territory.

More than 150 people were charged in the aftermath of the shootout. Carrizal is the first to go to trial. He faces up to life in state prison if convicted.

Gotro argued Monday the newly revealed police recordings with a Cossack member indicate the dispute had nothing to do with the “Texas” patches.

Before she began Carrizal’s defense, Gotro complained the withheld recordings with biker Mark White, who is also awaiting trial, would have changed how she cross-examined prosecution witnesses presented during the first three weeks of trial.

“This district attorney’s office, including [prosecutors Michael] Jarrett and [Amanda] Dillon and [McLennan County District Attorney Abel] Reyna, are sitting in a room when witnesses two and a half years ago are making exculpatory statements,” Gotro told the courtroom without the jury present. “They say they don’t have possession of the recordings, but they had actual knowledge of the contents of the recording and I’m happy to recite page and verse of the witnesses and the statements that they made that should have prevented the state from sponsoring the testimony of all three of their ‘experts’ and would have materially changed my cross-examination.”

Prosecutor Jarrett frowned and looked back into the gallery during Gotro’s request before repeatedly objecting to her statements. The confrontation boiled over when Gotro accused prosecutors of being “unethical” and “criminal.”

Judge Johnson told Gotro she would have the opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witnesses again. When asked for a second continuance, the judge gave Gotro 45 minutes before calling her first witnesses.

Yvonne Reeves, the mother of killed Cossack Richard Jordan, wept as she gave emotional testimony about how she found out on the phone that her son was shot. She said the Cossacks were not looking for a fight when they appeared at Twin Peaks, echoing the defense’s argument.

The defense also called Waco police detective Jeff Rodgers, who was present during the interviews with White. He testified the dispute started when Carrizal arrived at the restaurant and that the Bandidos felt disrespected by the Cossacks taking over the patio of the restaurant.

From Courthouse News.