Police Sergeant Describes How Waco Biker Carnage Began

October 18, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) — A Waco police officer testified Tuesday that the owner of a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” declined to cancel a biker event where a deadly 2015 shootout broke out between the rival Cossacks and Bandidos motorcycle gangs.

Police Sgt. Stephen Drews testified that the owner said nothing bad ever happened during previous bike nights at the restaurant. He said police planned a large, visible presence at the restaurant as a deterrent for violence, but did not expect and were not prepared for the shootout.

“It looked like somebody took Cabela’s [hunting and fishing supplies] and turned it on end and shook it into the parking lot,” Drews testified. “There were so many knives, guns, clubs, you name it.”

Drews testified for the prosecution during the second week of the trial of Jacob “Jake” Carrizal, 35, of Dallas, in McClelland County Court.

Carrizal, a leader of the Dallas chapter of the Bandidos, is charged with directing the operations of a criminal gang, and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity. The shootout on May 17, 2015 killed nine bikers and injured 20.

More than 150 people have been charged. Carrizal, the first to go to trial, faces up to life in state prison if convicted of all charges.

Tensions ratcheted up between the gangs when the Cossacks started wearing “Texas” bottom rocker patches on their vests without permission from the Bandidos, who claim the state as their territory.

Drews said police planned for the biker event with assurances that both gangs considered it foolish to have a violent confrontation in such a busy place on a Sunday afternoon. He testified that nothing happened between the two gangs until a column of Bandidos, led by Carrizal, rode into the parking lot. He said gunfire broke out seconds after hearing a fellow officer report heavy tension.

Prosecutors say Carrizal directed members to Waco and told them to be ready for a violent confrontation. A gang expert testified Monday that he saw evidence on Carrizal’s cellphone instructing members to “bring their tools,” or guns, not to travel alone, to leave women at home, not to tolerate disrespect and that “this is the life” they have chosen.

Carrizal’s attorneys disagree. They say the Cossacks instigated the shootout, that they showed up wearing bulletproof vests and ambushed the Bandidos before they could dismount their motorcycles.

From Courthouse News.

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Expert Witness Blames Both Sides in Waco Biker Shootout

October 17, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – A leader of a Bandidos motorcycle gang chapter from Dallas urged members to bring guns and not travel alone before a deadly 2015 shootout with the rival Cossacks gang at a Twin Peaks “breastaurant” in Waco, a state agent testified Monday.

Prosecution witness and gang expert Douglas Pearson – a police officer from Aurora, Colorado – testified during the second week of the trial of Jacob “Jake” Carrizal, of Dallas, in McClelland County Court.

Carrizal, 35, is charged with directing organized criminal activity resulting in a violent shootout at the restaurant on May 17, 2015, that killed nine bikers and injured 20.

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

Pearson spent his third day of testimony being cross-examined by defense attorney Casie Gotro, of San Antonio. Pearson disagreed with the defense argument that the Cossacks were the instigators of the shootout, testifying that both groups were criminal street gangs and that the shootout was “tit-for-tat, gang-on-gang violence.”

Pearson told Gotro that he saw evidence on Carrizal’s cellphone that he’d told other Bandidos to “bring their tools,” or guns, not to travel alone, to leave women at home, to not tolerate disrespect and that “this is the life” members have chosen.

Gotro asked whether that was not the same as evidence showing the Cossacks wanted violence, too. She said Cossacks showed up wearing bulletproof vests and ambushed the Bandidos before they could dismount their motorcycles.

“Does that not tell you that one side was the aggressor and the other side was not?” she asked. “Is it not significant to you that the president of one group is telling members to send members of another group to the hospital?”

Pearson disagreed, saying both sides showed up ready to fight. He said tensions between the gangs started when the Cossacks started to wear “Texas” bottom rocker patches on their vests without permission from the Bandidos, who claim the state as their territory.

Gotro unsuccessfully tried to have Pearson’s testimony thrown out in its entirety when he left the stand. State District Judge Matt Johnson rejected her motion to strike.

Several civil negligence lawsuits have been filed in addition to the pending criminal cases. The former franchisees of the Waco restaurant have denied responsibility, claiming that everyone who entered the restaurants “with the intent to engage in a confrontation with others” acted without the restaurant’s authority and were criminally trespassing.

From Courthouse News.

Jurors Recommend Death Penalty for Oklahoma Beheader

October 12, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) – An Oklahoma jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for convicted murderer Alton Nolen for gruesomely beheading a co-worker at a food-processing plant in 2014.

The 12-member Cleveland County jury deliberated for four hours in the afternoon after being told by prosecutors that Nolen, 33, wanted to die.

“He wants the death penalty,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said, The Oklahoman newspaper reported. “Give him what he wants.”

The jury convicted Nolen in September of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.

Nolen admitted to killing Colleen Hufford, 54, with a knife at the Vaughan Foods plant in Norman, but asserted an insanity defense. He purportedly killed her in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made on an assembly line.

Hufford was white, while Nolen is black and a Muslim convert.

Mashburn showed jurors images of Hufford in life before showing images of her severed head and body.

The punishment phase lasted two weeks, as jurors have already sentenced Nolen to three life sentences plus 130 years in state prison on the assault and battery charges.

On Wednesday, the jury rejected the defense’s argument that Nolen qualifies as “mentally retarded” under state law. The death penalty would have been off the table if the jury concluded otherwise.

Nolen tried to behead a second co-worker during the attack, but failed when he was shot by a company executive.

He later confessed that he initiated the attack because he felt oppressed as a Muslim.

Nolen’s attorneys pleaded for his life before deliberations, repeating arguments that he is mentally ill and mentally disabled.

“You do not need a doctor to tell you something is wrong with him,” attorney Shea Smith said. “He’s clearly got something wrong.”

From Courthouse News.

Union Says NFL Owner’s Threat on Flag Violates Labor Law

October 11, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A labor union on Tuesday claimed that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ threat to punish players who kneel in protest during the national anthem violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in Fort Worth, two days after Jones told reporters after a 31-35 loss to the Green Bay Packers that “we will not disrespect the flag.”

Jones is the first NFL owner to explicitly threaten discipline for the practice. The union says employers are banned from threatening workers for “concerted” activity.

“The employer evidenced by repeated public statements is attempting to threaten, coerce and intimidate all Dallas Cowboys players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protected under the act by saying he will fire any players involved in such concerted activity,” the complaint to the NLRB  states.

The union’s chief organizer Wade Rathke said Jones is bullying his employees to “unilaterally establish a previously nonexistent” work condition.

“The point is he threatened anybody and everybody,” Rathke told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We are trying to send Mr. Jones a message that there is a law here. The law here is that you have the ability to act with your co-worker. You can’t just roll over someone’s rights when they are a worker. You can’t bully workers on the job. President Trump might not get that. Jones might be confused. But these are workers with rights with the National Labor Relations Board.”

The NLRB will have an agent contact the union and the Cowboys to investigate the allegations, possibly resulting in the filing of a formal case to be tried before an administrative judge.

Jones’ announcement came two weeks after the Cowboys locked arms and kneeled before the national anthem was played before their game against the Arizona Cardinals, protesting police violence against African Americans. Protests increased around the league after President Donald Trump criticized them.

On Tuesday, Trump said on Twitter that federal tax laws should be changed to punish teams that do not punish players for such protests.

Jones said on Sunday: “There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other. We will not disrespect the flag.”

Individual Cowboys players have yet to kneel during the anthem, although two have held up their arm and fist at the end of the song.

From Courthouse News.

Death Penalty Possible in Oklahoma Beheading Trial

October 11, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) – An Oklahoma jury Tuesday rejected claims that convicted murderer Alton Nolen is “mentally retarded,” clearing the way for the death penalty as jurors weigh his punishment for beheading a co-worker at a food processing plant in 2014.

During the punishment phase of his trial, the 12-member Cleveland County jury unanimously concluded Nolen is not intellectually disabled. The term “mentally retard” is outdated and considered offensive in contemporary society, but the concept still exists in Oklahoma law.

Nolen’s attorney, Mitch Solomon, told jurors a death sentence “will not do anything to make the pain go away.”

“It was a terrible thing that happened,” Solomon said. “The question always was why it happened.”

Jurors two weeks ago convicted Nolen, 33, of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.

Nolen killed Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughn Foods plan in Norman, purportedly in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made while on an assembly line. Hufford was white; Nolen is black.

The punishment phase has lasted two weeks so far. Jurors have already sentenced him to three life sentences plus 130 years in state prison on the assault and battery charges. Defense attorneys have spent a week questioning Nolen’s mental state, presenting testimony that Nolen scored 69 on an IQ test in 2015.

Jurors were not persuaded by Nolen’s insanity defense during trial. A defense expert medical witness testified she observed Nolen show “numerous indications of mental illness,” that he told her was tempted by the sight of her feet, called her an infidel and “seemed preoccupied with what was going on in his mind.” She testified that he would refer to things in the name of Allah when not appropriate and that there was a history of mental illness in his family.

From Courthouse News.

Texas AG Faces Bribery Probe for Taking $100K Gift

October 5, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas-area district attorney confirmed Thursday her office is investigating embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for accepting a $100,000 gift from the leader of a company that was being investigated for Medicaid fraud.

Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley, a fellow Republican, told The Dallas Morning News she is looking into whether Paxton violated state laws that limit gifts public servants can receive from people under their jurisdiction.

She cited “great cooperation” from Paxton’s attorneys and the Texas Rangers, saying she is close to deciding whether to present a case to a grand jury.

“There is an active investigation looking into that matter,” Wiley told the newspaper. “We are carefully and thoroughly going through every piece of evidence.”

Wiley was appointed to the case by a regional administrative judge after it came to light that Paxton accepted the gift from James Webb, head of Preferred Imaging LLC, in 2015.

Federal prosecutors announced in July 2016 that the Dallas-based company would pay $3.5 million to resolve a whistleblower’s False Claims Act and Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act claims that it engaged in improper billing.

Preferred Imaging admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. The U.S. Department of Justice acknowledged at the time the Texas Attorney General’s Civil Medicaid Fraud Division for helping in the investigation.

The Texas Penal Code forbids public servants from accepting “any benefit from a person the public servant knows to be subject to regulation, inspection of investigation by the public servant or his agency.”

Paxton denied at the time of the settlement any violation of the gift rules of his office, saying there was no investigation of the company because the division “never received a referral.”

Paxton spokesman Matt Welch said Thursday that the attorney general’s office has “fully cooperated” with Wiley’s investigation.

“Attorney General Paxton’s personal finance statement fully complied with Texas ethics laws and has been thoroughly vetted by legal counsel who are ethics experts,” Welch said in a statement. “Despite irresponsible media speculation and wishful thinking by political opponents, all donations given to the Paxton legal defense effort are in full compliance with state law.”

Paxton’s legal costs have mounted as he awaits trial on two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony count of failing to register with a state securities regulator dating back to his time in the Texas House of Representatives in 2011. He faces up to 99 years in state prison if convicted.

Preferred Imaging’s settlement came five months after the Texas Ethics Commission narrowly rejected an advisory opinion that would have allowed Paxton to use out-of-state donations to fund his legal defenses. If approved, the opinion would have allowed Paxton’s employees to avoid the gift laws by accepting a “benefit” from a donor with no ties to the state and who is not subject to the commission’s jurisdiction.

From Courthouse News.

Oklahoma Man Convicted of Murder in Workplace Beheading

September 29, 2017
By David Lee

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) – An Oklahoma jury deliberated for over an hour Friday before convicting Alton Nolen of murder in the 2014 beheading of a co-worker at a food-processing plant.

A 12-member Cleveland County jury soundly rejected Nolen’s insanity defense after three weeks of trial, convicting him of one count of first-degree murder, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. The punishment phase begins Monday. Nolen, 33, faces the death penalty.

The attack drew national attention because of its gruesome nature and because Nolen, a black Muslim convert, killed a white woman, Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughn Foods plant in Norman. Nolen purportedly killed her in retaliation for being suspended when she complained about racial remarks he made while on an assembly line.

Nolen’s subsequent attack on another white female employee was stopped when he was shot by a company executive. Nolen later calmly admitted to the attacks in investigator records played for the jury last week.

Hufford’s family said it is thankful to the jury for its verdict.

“All of us now hope for a swift sentencing process concluding with the death penalty for this killer,” the family said in a statement. “None of this will ever bring my mother back to us, but there is a greater sense of closure as justice continues to be administered and our family embraces the healing process.”

Nolen’s attorneys unsuccessfully argued during closing arguments that Nolen’s mental illness caused him to misinterpret Islamic teachings. They reminded jurors that Nolen said he thought he was doing the right thing by killing Hufford.

Court-appointed defense attorney Shea Smith told jurors Nolen made up a religion in his own mind that had conflicting beliefs, and that he thought he was given special abilities by Allah, The Oklahoman newspaper reported.

A defense expert medical witness testified this week that she observed Nolen showing “numerous indications of mental illness,” that he told her was tempted by the sight of her feet, called her an infidel and “seemed preoccupied with what was going on in his mind.” She testified he would refer to things in the name of Allah when not appropriate and that there was a history of mental illness in his family.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn flatly rejected the insanity defense, telling jurors during closing arguments that “you don’t even have to listen” to the doctors to determine Nolen is not insane.

“Why did he want to plead guilty if he thought that he was doing the right thing?” Mashburn asked. “Why would he be willing to take the death penalty?”

From Courthouse News.