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.

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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.

Dallas Commissioner’s Ex-Consultant Gets Probation for Bribery

November 3, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – The star witness in the failed bribery case against controversial Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was sentenced to probation Thursday, bringing a close to a years-long, high-profile investigation that ended in embarrassing defeat for federal prosecutors.

Former consultant Christian Campbell, 47, of Dallas, was sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. He pleaded guilty in July 2015 to bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits, choosing to cooperate with prosecutors to build a case against Price. Prosecutors recommended Campbell receive a three-year prison sentence in exchange.

Campbell apologized to his family during sentencing Thursday, saying “I have accepted responsibility for my actions,” The Dallas Morning News reported.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn told Campbell the circumstances were “odd” given how he is being punished while the main targets of the investigation were acquitted. She noted how he helped the prosecution’s case and damaged his reputation, saying that “nothing ever dies on the Internet.”

Campbell was indicted in 2014 along with Price, political consultant Kathy Nealy and Price’s chief of staff Dapheny Fain. Prosecutors accused Price of taking over $950,000 in cash, cars and real estate from Nealy in exchange for supporting her clients’ bids for county contracts with his influence, inside information and votes, and over $200,000 in cash from a clothing store operated by Fain and an art gallery operated by his friend Karen Manning.

After a months-long trial this spring, jurors acquitted Price on several corruption charges and failed to reach a verdict on tax fraud charges that federal prosecutors later declined to retry.

Jurors appeared to punish prosecutors for several failures to turn over evidence to the defense in the final weeks of trial, which drew the ire of Judge Lynn. She called the failures “terribly inappropriate and very disappointing.”

The defense capitalized on the mistakes, accusing federal prosecutors and investigators of incompetence and dishonesty. They argued the prosecution’s parade of testimony and evidence lacked a “smoking gun” showing a conspiracy to bribe, and that the case is built largely on circumstantial financial records. Price argued the payments were for loans that he had made and that large sums of cash seized from his home did not belong to him.

Price’s acquittal resulted in the case against Nealy being dropped as well.

Campbell’s attorney, Jeffrey Vaden of Houston, asked Lynn for probation because unlike Price, his client did not receive government assistance for his defense and that he has been hurt financially.

Campbell testified during Price’s trial that Price gave him and Nealy confidential bid information that helped his client, oil services firm Schlumberger, outbid other companies for a $40 million county information technology contract in 2002. He said Schlumberger’s original bid was as high as $70 million before Price gave him information on where the bid ranked.

He testified that Nealy became confrontational if she believed Campbell’s clients were dragging their feet on paying her, often unleashing expletive-filled threats that she “could make things bad for them.”

Campbell said he believed Nealy was paying Price for influence, based on “the way she acted,” and the “comments, threats and suggestions” she made, and that she had the power to cancel contracts if she was not happy.

From Courthouse News.

Court Upholds Death Penalty for Former Texas Peace Justice

November 3, 2017
By David Lee

AUSTIN (CN) – Texas’ highest criminal appeals court refused Wednesday to toss the death sentence of a former justice of the peace convicted of gunning down a Dallas-area district attorney’s wife and accused of killing two prosecutors over a personal grudge.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the appeal of Eric Williams, 50, of Kaufman, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for killing Cynthia McClelland, wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland.

Williams appealed his conviction in January 2015, arguing his death sentence should be mitigated by scans that show his “brain is broken” due to diabetes-induced brain damage and a loss of connecting fibers in his corpus callosum that “may create schizophrenic symptoms.”

The McClellands were gunned down in their home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was brazenly shot to death in a Kaufman County courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman in broad daylight.

Prosecutors argued during trial that Williams planned to killed McClelland and Hasse as revenge for their prosecution of him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors, a case that resulted in the loss of Williams’ job and his disbarment.

His wife Kim Williams testified that Cynthia McClelland was killed as “collateral damage” because she witnessed her husband’s shooting and that Williams shot her again because she was “still moaning.” Kim Williams was later sentenced to 40 years in state prison for helping her husband.

Williams was also charged, but not tried, in the deaths of Mike McClelland and Hasse.

Writing for the nine-member appeals court on Wednesday, Judge Michael Keasler rejected Williams’ characterization of the crimes as “isolated and factually connected incidents” motivated by revenge against people who “ruined his life.”

The judge said Williams’ “words and actions demonstrated a general disregard for human life.”

He said Williams had made several other death threats, including two additional murders he was allegedly planning when he was arrested.

“In addition to the three murders Williams had committed and the two murders that he was planning at the time of his arrest, Williams had a general history of making threats when he became angry or wanted to control others,” the 110-page opinion states. “He threatened to kill other attorneys over perceived insults and injuries. He also threatened to kill his wife Kim. He fired a gun at or near Kim, and she believed that he had done so intentionally. Williams had threatened a former girlfriend with a gun in an effort to keep her from walking away from him, and he had pointed a gun at a couple in a church parking lot where he was trying to catch his dog. Williams had also threatened to hit his elderly and ill father-in-law during a dispute over cell phone charges.”

Judge Keasler said the “future dangerousness evidence” shows Williams would constitute a continued threat to society.

From Courthouse News.

New Evidence Appears in Waco Biker Shootout Trial

November 2, 2017
By David Lee

WACO, Texas (CN) – An apologetic judge on Wednesday recessed the trial of a Dallas leader of the Bandidos motorcycle gang for the rest of the week, citing new audio evidence turned over by police.

“I am sincerely sorry for the delay, but it is unavoidable,” state District Judge Matt Johnson told jurors. “We have to make sure the trial is tried correctly and in accordance with all the rules.”

Jacob “Jake” Carrizal, 35, of Dallas, is charged with 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.

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

The judge granted defense attorney Casie Gotro’s motion for a continuance due to an audio recording of an interview the attorney received from Waco police Wednesday morning. She told the judge the identity of one of the police officers is unknown.

“This recording contains statements that are inconsistent with what the state’s theory has been thus far, your honor,” Gotro said. “I need to know who that law enforcement official was that was present during the statements.”

After listening to the interview and two other recordings police turned over Wednesday, Johnson ordered the city to disclose the identities of the officers. He also issued a protective order to keep the identities and contents of the recordings private.

“I find a reasonable probability exists that the information on the exhibits produced by the city could potentially give testimony necessary to a fair determination of guilt or innocence,” the judge said.

Hours earlier, the city had filed a motion for protective order, citing privilege.

“The court’s order is broad enough to include the identity of a person or persons who have furnished relevant or useful information which is protected by this privilege,” the motion states. “Release of this information would put those person or persons at risk, and would jeopardize future cooperation of sources and other law enforcement agencies.”

The recess came the day after the prosecution rested its case. It called several dozen witnesses in three weeks of testimony.

Prosecutors said Carrizal told other Bandidos to “bring their tools,” or guns, not to travel alone, to leave women at home and not to tolerate disrespect.

Waco police testified that the owner of the restaurant declined to cancel the biker event, saying nothing bad had happened at previous biker nights there.

Shaniqua Corsey, a former employee of the restaurant, testified earlier in the trial that the shooting started when a man in a “big yellow helmet” pulled a large pistol and shot a biker in front of him. Jake Carrizal’s brother, Chuck Carrizal, later testified that his brother owned a yellow motorcycle helmet, ABC-affiliate KTRE reported on Wednesday.

From Courthouse News.