Jacob Reese ducked punches and bullets at Twin Peaks almost four years ago, but he dodged another bullet this week when all the remaining charges stemming from the biker brawl were dropped, a week before he was set to plead guilty.
The 33-year-old former Cossack had accepted an offer from McLennan County prosecutors that called for him to plead guilty to Class B misdemeanor rioting. In exchange for his plea, set for April 11 in 54th State District Court, the former Mount Pleasant resident was to have been given credit for the two months he spent in the county jail after the May 2015 shootout.
Neither Reese nor his attorney, Steve Keathley, of Corsicana, objected when they learned Tuesday that McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson was dismissing charges against the remaining 24 defendants, including Reese, from the Twin Peaks biker brawl.
"We had negotiated a plea bargain, but I think prevailing wisdom was that dismissing the cases was the just and right thing to do and I was informed that there was no necessity to plead," Keathley said. "We were mighty tickled. My client was pretty fired up."
Keathley and McLennan County First Assistant District Attorney Nelson Barnes have varying accounts of Reese's minor involvement in the melee. However, both agree that dismissing the charges is the right thing to do.
Keathley said Reese was on the Twin Peaks patio when "there were some initial shots that beckoned him outside."
"As it really started getting down, the video depicts another fellow coming up and engaging him with a swing, and they go down and it all goes downhill after that," Keathley said. "I would have argued differently if we had gone to trial. I think there are a lot of ways to interpret the nuances of a person standing there and what necessarily was going on. I won't comment on the specifics of the incident, but certainly self-defense jumped out at me. I think that was pretty plain."
Barnes said he agrees that Reese's "culpability was fairly light." He said it appeared to him that Reese hit a rival biker on the shoulder with an unopened knife.
"We are doing the right thing," Barnes said. "Barry decided to go in another direction with the cases, and it wouldn't be right to go ahead with Mr. Reese's plea deal when we knew we were going to dismiss the other cases. That's just not how we are going to do business. He didn't have a gun in his hand. He didn't have an open knife in his hand. He hit somebody, and the plea agreement we reached was in line with what he did."
Reese, a laborer, has since moved from Mount Pleasant and is trying to start his life again, Keathley said.
"He has basically tried to stay under the radar since all of this happened," he said.
Reese was among the remaining 24 bikers with charges pending before Johnson decided to jettison the problematic cases he inherited from former McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna.
Reese, like 154 others, initially was indicted on first-degree felony criminal conspiracy charges. After Johnson defeated Reyna in the 2018 Republican primary, Reyna dismissed all but 24 of the cases, which he re-indicted on first-degree and second-degree felony rioting charges.
"We all know there are two sides to the story, and I am not trying to throw rocks at anybody," Keathley said. "But from my perspective, I thought there was a pretty solid self-defense issue with my guy. The whole issue of individual culpability kind of got lost in this whole swirl of whether they were all there to do ill or whether they were just bystanders.
"Their presence somehow led to the theory that their mere presence fostered the commission of criminal activity, aka a gang, and that is what overshadowed any reasonable review of individual culpability. I think the DA hit the nail on the head when he said we need to put this nightmare to rest, and I think that was the just thing to do."
Barnes said he also had plea negotiations with several other bikers and their attorneys but no one else besides Reese agreed to accept a deal.