The law license of the firebrand Houston attorney who won a mistrial in the only Twin Peaks shootout case to go to trial has been suspended by the State Bar of Texas.
Casie Gotro will be unable to practice law for three years and must pay $59,000 in restitution to clients she failed to serve, the State Bar announced Monday.
The decision comes a year after Gotro and Dallas attorney Clint Broden won the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Percy Foreman Lawyers of the Year award for their representation of bikers in the deadly 2015 showdown at the former Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco.
Gotro represented Jacob Carrizal, president of the Dallas Bandidos chapter, in a 2017 trial, but the sanctions do not appear to be related to that case. Gotro did not respond to a message left through Thomas Lane, her co-counsel in Carrizal’s case, and previous phone number listed in Gotro’s name was out of service on Monday.
During the Carrizal proceedings, Gotro and former McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office constantly butted heads over defense access to evidence in the case. Gotro succeeded in getting 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother recused from Carrizal’s case based on the question of the judge’s ability to be fair in the case.
Carrizal’s trial was delayed on at least three occasions after Gotro uncovered evidence that Reyna’s office should have turned over to the defense before trial but did not do so.
During one of the revelations, an angry Gotro stormed out of the courtroom during a break, calling back over her shoulder that the DA’s office failure to disclose evidence was criminal.
Carrizal’s trial ended in mistrial in November 2017 when the jury could not reach unanimous verdicts in any of the three counts against Carrizal. Prosecutors have since dismissed the charges against Carrizal and the other 154 bikers indicted in the deadly shootout that left nine dead and 20 injured.
Gotro, 46, withdrew as Carrizal’s attorney after the trial, saying she was going to take a break from practicing law. She insisted there was no conflict between her and Carrizal, but she said she handled the case for free, was only paid $8,000 for a portion of her expenses and fees from a Bandidos defense fund and just could not afford to take on a retrial.
Carrizal said Monday by phone that he did not file the grievances that led to Gotro’s suspension.
According to the State Bar’s public release about attorney disciplinary actions, Gotro was suspended for three years in one case, had a suspension probated in another case and received a partially probated suspension in a third. Details of the cases and clients were not disclosed.
In the case for which the bar suspended Gotro for three years, a bar grievance committee found that she “neglected the legal matter entrusted to her, failed to keep her client reasonably informed about the status of the legal matter and failed to promptly comply with reasonable requests for information, failed to hold funds belonging in whole or in part to a third party that were in Gotro’s possession in connection with the representation separate from her own property, and failed to promptly deliver to a third person funds that they were entitled to receive.”
Also, the bar charged that “upon termination of representation, Gotro also failed to refund advance payments of fees that had not been earned” and failed to timely respond to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
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In the case in which the State Bar suspended her license for six months and probated the remaining six months, the allegations were nearly the same as the other case. Gotro was ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution and $816 in attorneys’ fees.
In the case that was fully probated, the bar charged that Gotro failed to keep her client informed, failed to return papers and property to her client after her termination and failed to refund payments she had not earned. She was ordered to make $10,000 in restitution and to pay $1,734 in attorneys’ fees.