Sheriff Indicted For Evidence Tampering After Footage Of Deputies Killing An Unarmed Black Man Was Destroyed By Reality Show Producers

from the publicly-funded,-morally-bankrupt dept

It's probably time for Williamson County (TX) Sheriff Robert Chody to be voted out of office. Chody presides over a sheriff's office that has generated an amazing amount of controversy in a short period of time.

The sheriff's office invited A&E's "Live PD" to follow its deputies around as they enforced the law and, apparently, deployed plenty of excessive force. Figuring aggressive officers made for good TV, Chody began treating the hiring process as a casting call, ignoring candidates' checkered pasts if they appeared to be willing to terrorize perps and engage in high-speed pursuits.

This aggressive mindset was solidified by other supervisors in the Sheriff's Office. Deputies were allegedly given gift cards to local restaurants for deploying force during arrests. The supervisor behind the pay-for-pain scheme resigned after posting pictures depicting the kidnapping, rape, and multilation of a black football player (all staged with dolls) to his social media accounts.

During the "Live PD" days, Chody's aggressive deputies tased a black man to death during an arrest. Javier Ambler was stopped after a 22-minute low speed pursuit. Multiple officers tased Ambler as he told them he couldn't breathe and suffered from a heart condition. The footage captured by the Live PD camera crew was destroyed, according to A&E. (Body camera footage still survives.)

According to Live PD, this was part of the agreement it had with the Sheriff's Office, which allowed it to destroy unaired footage after 30 days unless it was needed for an investigation. It should have seemed clear an in-custody death would result in an investigation, but Live PD destroyed it anyway. A&E dumped the show shortly after that.

There's apparently more to this than some CYA-via-boilerplate. USA Today reports Sheriff Chody has been criminally-charged for his involvement in the destruction of the Live PD footage.

A Texas grand jury has indicted Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody on an evidence tampering charge in the destruction of reality TV show footage that showed deputies chasing and using force on a Black man who died last year.

Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore opened a joint investigation in June, a week after the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, and KVUE-TV revealed details of Ambler’s death and reported that “Live PD” had destroyed its footage.

And there are possibly more criminal charges on the way. Chody is also facing the possibility of additional evidence tampering charges for another incident in another county the same night Ambler was killed by sheriff's deputies.

In addition, the former lawyer for the county, Jason Nassour, has been indicted on evidence tampering for his involvement in the Javier Ambler killing.

According to Live PD, it was Chody who told the show to destroy the footage.

“Live PD” host Dan Abrams said in television interviews and in a post on his website that sheriff’s officials initially asked producers to preserve the video. Two months after Ambler’s death, Chody told them the investigation was completed. At that point, Abrams said, producers destroyed the video.

Whatever the Sheriff's Office did to clear itself of wrongdoing wasn't the only investigation Chody (and Live PD) needed to contend with. Outside investigators from the Austin Police Department and Travis County prosecutors were allegedly stonewalled by both the Sheriff and Live PD when they asked for copies of the footage. These investigations are still ongoing and Sheriff Chody certainly was aware of outside investigations when he instructed Live PD to destroy the footage.

Indictments are easy to obtain if prosecutors have any interest in obtaining them. It will take a court to make these stick and it's awfully difficult to hang criminal charges on law enforcement officers. But there's enough circumstantial evidence pointing to Chody being the wrong person for the job. Sheriffs wield a lot of power. And Chody appears to have abused his since day one.

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Filed Under: evidence, excessive force, jason nassour, javier ambler, live pd, reality tv, robert chody, tampering, texas, williamson county


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  • identicon
    Daydream, 1 Oct 2020 @ 4:28am

    Soo...basically the gist is, police in Texas think that being filmed using violence and intimidation is good propaganda for them, and a TV crew got rid of footage showing police committing murder because they assumed it would never be investigated. Is that about right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 1 Oct 2020 @ 7:29am

      Re:

      Remove "in Texas" from your question, and somehow it still seems easy to guess which country you are talking about.

      There are lots of countries where police can be a murderous crowd likely to violate more laws than they uphold.

      But there is only a single country where they'd be proud to make a show of it on national TV.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2020 @ 12:46pm

      Re:

      The police told them the investigation was completed, so the footage was not needed for an investigation so they destroyed it as per policy.

      That said, that was stupid of them, even if it was what the agreement stipulated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Oct 2020 @ 4:49am

    “Look, I keep hearing all this shit about Black people not wanting to turn on the TV and see other Black people dying at the hands of cops, so what the fuck are y’all complaining about?” — Sheriff Robert Chody, probably

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2020 @ 4:59am

    Enter Trump?

    Do I sense another pre-trial presidential pardon coming on?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 1 Oct 2020 @ 5:02am

    Makes one wonder how much footage shows like this and COPS deleted of police officers actively committing crimes against people they deem suspects based on nothing more than race, wealth and location.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Oct 2020 @ 5:38am

      Re:

      Far less than the number of dash/body cam "glitches" that made sure there was no footage available.
      It takes a very stupid PD to allow a film crew to come in an record them after all of the lawsuits they faced for stupid shit done to get ratings by the cops.
      I mean if you can't have a star with a vanity badge in an APC drive though a fence & kill the family pets what are you going to do?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2020 @ 6:43pm

      Re:

      Oh live PD was rather tame for a police show compared to cops.

      Whooo boy was it tame...

      “Looks at comparisons”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2020 @ 1:45pm

      Re:

      Suppository wondering is for politics not courts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 1 Oct 2020 @ 5:44am

    The bigger problem would appear to be that the PD are sending their original footage to the TV producers, with no backup kept by the police.

    Even without the blatant and obvious danger of corruption and abuse, a private company would have been able to accidentally delete all evidence that would be required for either prosecution or defence?

    "“Live PD” host Dan Abrams said in television interviews and in a post on his website that sheriff’s officials initially asked producers to preserve the video"

    Why the hell are you depending on a private 3rd party company to preserve your video?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      kallethen, 1 Oct 2020 @ 7:26am

      Re:

      Why the hell are you depending on a private 3rd party company to preserve your video?

      Because it wasn't the police's video, it was the TV crew's video. Per the article, the body camera footage, which would be the police department's, was still available.

      Still, I agree with the point that perhaps the police department should have requested that they keep a copy of the TV crew's footage as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Oct 2020 @ 10:01am

    'As the killers with badges you know best I suppose...'

    A&E had video evidence of deputies murdering a black guy via tasers.

    The sheriffs office claimed that there was no need to keep the video, since the 'review' of the incident was over.

    There had been no public trial relating to the murder.

    In order to accept the claim that the sheriff's office had made A&E had to accept that said office had looked into a murder that A&E had video evidence of and determined that nothing wrong had happened and therefore there was no need for a trial, and saw nothing wrong with that themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ron Currier (profile), 1 Oct 2020 @ 11:35am

    Why are they even deleting any footage

    It's not like the footage exists on reels of file or tape. It's all digital nowadays. Digital storage is basically free (the cost of disks being so cheap). If I were a TV producer, I'd be archiving everything, you never know when you might be able to reuse the footage for some other project.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2020 @ 11:43am

    What, the investigation is concluded? Why of course i will destroy all of my insanely public interest-oriented footage. Just because.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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