One thing to set straight the Republic of Texas Interim government overall was never formally discredited nor classified as a criminal organization. The leaders were instead individually prosecuted for their actions as applicable to the irrelevant federal laws. Rather than being brought before a military or international courts they were heard in regular civil federal courts, and hence the current political imprisonment of McLaren.
The appeals Court ruled there was No Evidence of “Organized Criminal Activity”
Court overturns convictions of Republic of Texas leaders
Posted: Saturday, August 28, 1999
The Associated Press
EL PASO – An appeals court has overturned the organized crime convictions of Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren and a top aide, saying it found insufficient evidence against them.
In separate but nearly identical opinions issued Thursday, the Texas 8th Court of Appeals entered judgments of acquittal for McLaren and associate Robert “White Eagle” Otto.
McLaren was sentenced to 99 years in prison and Otto received a 50-year term in a kidnapping that triggered an armed standoff two years ago. Otto was being held in the Hughes prison unit in Gatesville Friday night. A bail hearing had not been set.
“The evidence was legally insufficient to support a conviction for engaging in organized criminal activity, as there was no showing that McLaren abducted Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe,” the El Paso court wrote in the opinion for McLaren.
“What it boils down to is if you allege it you’ve got to prove it,” said Otto’s attorney, Mike Barclay of Alpine. “The evidence was insufficient.”
It was unlikely McLaren, leader of a group that believes Texas is an independent nation, would be released from prison anytime soon.
In addition to the state prison term, he was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in federal prison for participating in a fraudulent scheme to distribute $1.8 billion in worthless Republic warrants, which resembled cashier’s checks.
Otto, however, was not charged in the federal case, and Barclay said he would try to get his client released on bail.
Jeff Davis County District Attorney Albert Valadez, who prosecuted the case, said the ruling is being petitioned to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He also said McLaren and Otto could face additional charges stemming from the same incident, such as burglary or aggravated assault.
Asked about the possibility of additional charges against his client, McLaren attorney Frank Brown said: “We’ll have to litigate the issue of double-jeopardy at that time.”
Barclay had no comment on Valadez’s threat of more charges. The Rowes refused comment on the overturned convictions when reached at their home Friday.
Prosecutors said while McLaren and Otto, who were tried together, were not present at the Rowes’ home, they had plotted and directed the kidnapping. Defense attorneys argued there was no evidence that the pair abducted anyone.
Testimony in the October 1997 trial in Alpine showed that three of McLaren’s followers in the Republic had stormed the couple’s home in the Davis Mountains Resort and taken them hostage on April 27, 1997.
The Rowes, among McLaren’s chief critics in a neighborhood association, were taken captive in response to the jailing of a Republic member earlier that day. They were held in their home for 12 hours before their release in exchange for the member who had been jailed.
The assault touched off a standoff between Republic members and scores of state troopers, who laid siege to the remote resort 175 miles southeast of El Paso until the group surrendered a week later.
Months later, McLaren and Otto were tried and convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity, essentially participating in a conspiracy, to commit aggravated kidnapping.
Their appeals were based on a Texas court precedent that says a person can be convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity only if he agreed to participate in a criminal conspiracy and performed some overt act to advance the conspiracy. Indictments alleged the overt act was the abduction.
In its ruling, the appeals court said there was evidence that the three followers kidnapped the Rowes using deadly force.
And the court said evidence showed McLaren was in radio contact with them during the kidnapping, that he gave interviews to the media as their spokesman and that he negotiated with authorities for the release of a Republic of Texas member in exchange for the Rowes.
“There is simply no evidence, however, that McLaren was a direct participant in the abduction: the state having chosen to name this as the overt act McLaren performed, it was obligated to present evidence that he restrained the Rowes by force or threat of force,” the court wrote.
“Having failed to do so, there was no evidence of the overt act as alleged. Without evidence of the overt act, the evidence was insufficient to prove the offense of organized criminal activity.” AP photoLeader Richard McLaren at the Republic of Texas “embassy” near Fort Davis in December 1996.