A Texas sheriff identified as Robert Chody was arrested Monday, September 28, on charges of tampering evidence in the case of a Black man who died in police custody.
NBC reported that the Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody is accused of destroying or concealing audio and video footage that showed his deputies pursuing and using force on 40-year-old Javier Ambler in March 2019, according to an indictment.
Chody's indictment stems from footage shot by cameramen for the "Live PD" show on the night the former postal worker and the father of two died following a 22-minute car chase by Williamson County deputies.
Ambler’s death and the questions over the destroyed "Live PD" footage ignited a controversy that led to the cancellation of the hit A&E show in June. Chody is accused of ordering that "Live PD" destroy the footage showing Ambler's death which was never aired.
District Attorney Margaret Moore accused the sheriff's department of "stonewalling" the investigation earlier this year in a tweet no longer available following the deletion of her Twitter account.
“For the last year, [the sheriff's office] has stonewalled our investigation. What should have been a routine traffic stop ended with Javier’s death.”
Former Williamson County general counsel Jason Nassour is also accused of destroying the recordings “with intent to impair their ability as evidence” in the investigation of Ambler’s death.
Chody and Nassour were indicted on felony evidence tampering charge and released on a $10,000 bond, officials said. Both men are facing between two and 10 years in prison if convicted.
A defiant Chody, speaking to the media after he was released on bond, claimed the charges were politically-motivated.
“We’re here because it's a month before the election - my election. “I find it shocking and disgusting that our district attorney uses his office for his political agenda. “The facts are very clear and let me be very clear. I did not tamper with evidence.”
Chody's lawyer, Gerry Morris called the indictment "100% baloney". Morris said;
"Sheriff Chody gave no order, no direction, instituted no policy, had nothing to do with the destruction of any 'Live PD' videos, period. There is not a single shred of evidence that says otherwise."
Ambler’s final moments were captured on police body cameras, but prosecutors had sought the Live PD footage because it likely offered the clearest view of the fatal confrontation. Deputies began pursuing Ambler for allegedly failing to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. The car chase ended in Austin where Ambler was restrained and tased at least three times.
Before losing consciousness, Ambler told the officers he had a heart condition and said he couldn’t breathe. Ambler died of congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity, in combination with forcible restraint, according to a custodial death report filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
The manner of death was ruled a homicide. Though the internal Williamson County investigation cleared the deputies involved in the encounter of wrongdoing, the deputies identified as James Johnson and Zach Camden remained under investigation by Austin police and Travis County prosecutors.