The 2004 summer night when David Cunniff took his two teen daughters to an Old 97's show at the Gypsy Tea Room rattled Deep Ellum to the core. How it all went down depends who you ask, but the end result left Cuniff bloodied and beaten to the point that friends and family questioned whether he would live.
His broken neck and bruised body came at the hands of Jesse Chaddock, known to associate with the skinhead gangs of the neighborhood. He's still in prison for engagement in organized criminal activity, though as of today, he can count on a release far sooner than he originally expected.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals published an opinion this morning dismissing his aggravated assault charge and agreeing with his claim that it constituted double jeopardy.
Engagement in organized criminal activity is a "greater-inclusive offense," according to the court's majority opinion. The charges for both offenses were identical, except that the greater offense included that Chaddock committed assault "as a member of a criminal street gang."
The Observer followed the case closely at the time, recounting the narrative from the night of the show to Cunniff's remarkable recovery and lingering pain.
The prosecutor at the time of the trial argued that Chaddock still associated with the Confederate Hammerskins, a white supremacist gang known for violence. Chaddock still had his racist tattoos. His attorney stuck with a different story -- it was all a bar fight gone awry, a commonplace spat with a rare and terrible outcome.
In the end, a jury convicted Chaddock of engagement of organized criminal activity and sentenced him to 19 years in prison. The following month, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, which came with another 10 years.
As of today's Court of Criminal Appeals decision, he's off the hook for a third of his original jail time, but he still has quite a few years left to serve.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.