The term of a Texas grand jury considering the cases of bikers arrested after a shootout that left nine dead last year at a Waco restaurant expired, giving defense attorneys hope that the 39 people whose cases weren't considered won't be indicted.
"If they didn't present anything to the grand jury in all this time, I can't imagine they ever will," said Paul Looney, a Houston attorney representing a biker couple from Brenham, Texas.
But McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said Friday that he could still present the cases to another grand jury and that the criminal investigation continues. Reyna declined to say why he hadn't presented the cases yet.
Since November, the grand jury has indicted 154 people on the identical charge of engaging in organized criminal activity, alleging that they are complicit in the shootout that also left 20 people injured. They face 15 years to life in prison if convicted. The grand jury's term expired Thursday.
The shootout between bikers and police occurred outside a Twin Peaks restaurant in May 2015, shortly before a scheduled meeting of the Confederation of Clubs and Independents, a coalition of motorcycle clubs that advocates rider safety.
The Associated Press previously reported that ballistics reports show four of the people killed were struck by the same caliber of rifle fired by Waco police. Waco police spokesman Patrick Swanton has declined to comment, citing a gag order in the criminal case of one of the bikers.
Authorities say the shooting arose from an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs.
Lee West, a Waco biker who has been closely monitoring the case, said all of those indicted thus far have been Bandidos, Cossacks or members of their support clubs. The remaining 39 people all belong to what bikers call "mom-and-pop" clubs, West said.
Dallas attorney Don Tittle, who represents about 15 bikers who have filed or plan to file lawsuits against Waco authorities for wrongful prosecution, said he believes Reyna didn't present the remaining cases to the grand jury so that he can wait out a deadline for the bikers to sue. They only have two years from the shooting to file their lawsuits, and 12 of the bikers Tittle represents have yet to be indicted. He says they fear retaliation if they go ahead and sue.
"There was no way he was going to allow these cases to be no-billed. If he's continuing to investigate, there are a lot of people out there who are hesitant to poke the bear," Tittle said.
Melissa Hamilton, who teaches criminal procedure at the University of Houston, said prosecutors may have let the grand jury lapse because they are continuing to collect evidence.
"If there's additional evidence with the next grand jury, that could mean not only charges for those who have not been indicted but also additional charges for those who have been," she said.