Williamson County, Texas, Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted on evidence tampering charges connected with the destruction of Live P.D. footage that showed deputies chasing and Tasering a Black man in March 2019. Javier Ambler II died after he was chased by deputies Zach Camden and J.J. Johnson for allegedly not dimming his headlights. After his car was disabled in an Austin neighborhood, the deputies Tasered him four times. Ambler complained about not being able to breathe and said he had a heart condition. He died minutes after the incident.
On Monday, a Williamson County grand jury indicted Chody and former Williamson County general counsel Jason Nassour on evidence tampering charges, reports the American-Statesman. The charge is a third-degree felony. If convicted, Chody and Nassour face two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. The charges came over three months after the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reported that Live P.D. cameras filmed Ambler's death and destroyed the footage. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore began a joint investigation a week later.
Prosecutors would not say what Chody's role was in destroying the footage while the case is ongoing. Chody said Monday he was not involved and called the charges politically motivated. He turned himself in at the Williamson County Jail and his bail was set at $10,000. He can continue to serve, but he is up for re-election in November.
According to prosecutors, the Live P.D. footage likely offered the best look at what happened the night of Ambler's death. The clearest picture remaining comes from the body camera of an Austin police officer who was at the scene. Investigators said they spent months trying to get the Live P.D. footage and accused the sheriff's office and series producers from blocking them. Chody said the investigation was going on too long unnecessarily and prosecutors should have tried to get the footage earlier.
Chody refused to release documents about Ambler's death and only made some documents publicly available after the Texas Attorney General's Office ordered him to do so. The documents showed there was an internal investigation, which cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing in Ambler's death. They are still under investigation from Austin police and Travis County prosecutors.
The controversial contract between Williamson County and Live P.D. allowed producers to delete any unaired footage within 30 days unless a court order or law required them to keep it. In June, Live P.D. co-host Dan Abrams admitted it was a mistake to stick so closely to the language in the contract in Ambler's death. "I think there should have been an exception to the rule, we got too caught up in the standards," Abrams said at the time. Abrams said the footage did not air because it showed a fatality, and noted that the show aired on a five- to 25-minute delay.
Live P.D. aired on A&E from October 2016 until it was canceled in May 2020 following protests against police brutality after the killing of George Floyd. At the time it was canceled, it was the most-watched show on the network. Live Rescue, a spinoff series focusing on the work of firefighters and EMTs, replaced it in August.