Evidence hearing against former Williamson County sheriff, counsel held in Travis County

Williamson County

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and Williamson County Attorney General Counsel Jason Nassour were indicted in both Williamson and Travis Counties in 2020 and March 2021, each on one count of evidence tampering from the March 2019 in-custody death of Javier Ambler (KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday, a Travis County Criminal District Court held a hearing in the evidence tampering case against former Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and former Williamson County general counsel Jason Nassour.

The hearing’s purpose was to discuss rejecting the element of Chody’s indictment that alleges he concealed and destroyed evidence concerning the reality TV footage in the March 2019 in-custody death of Javier Ambler II.

The incident was when WCSO deputies pursued Ambler on a chase after he reportedly failed to dim his headlights for oncoming traffic. The chase led all the way into Austin at around 1:30 a.m.

The chase was never aired on A&E’s law enforcement reality show “Live P.D.,” which WCSO was previously featured on. The unaired footage was later completely destroyed.

Then-Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said initial findings in the investigation showed that Ambler notified officers he had a congenital heart defect before he was tased four times. In body camera footage from Austin Police Department — who also responded to the scene — Ambler can be heard saying, “I have congestive heart failure,” and “I can’t breathe.”

Body cam footage from March 2019 of Javier Ambler's arrest (Austin Police Department body camera recording)
Body cam footage from March 2019 of Javier Ambler’s arrest (Austin Police Department body camera recording)

According to the “Live P.D.” production company, Big Fish Entertainment, the show’s contract stated that the company could destroy any unused footage within 30 days of filming.

The charge against Chody, from a Williamson County District Court, claims belief the former sheriff acted to “destroy, or conceal a record, document, or thing; namely, video recordings and audio recordings, with intent to impair their availability as evidence in the investigation.”

Chody has denied the accusations of a cover-up and claimed the charges were motivated by politics ahead of his re-election campaign, which he later lost.

Both Chody and Nassour were present during Tuesday’s hearing.

Chody’s lawyer, Gerry Morris used a 1977 case law known as the Posey vs. the State of Texas to argue his case. It’s a case law that Holly Taylor who represents the State of Texas argued is out of date and doesn’t directly align with the Chody case.

“It deals with the offense of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation fraud, deception and subterfuge, in violation of the controlled substance act, not the offense of tampering with physical evidence,” said Holly Taylor. “Under the penal code, which is what we’re dealing with here. So it’s a separate code, it’s not a traditional penal code, it’s an older case.”

After a series of back and forth arguments, Travis County’s Criminal District Court Judge Karen Sage agreed that she would give both parties 10-days to present their arguments to her.

The court is expected to reconvene on Oct. 19 where the judge says she will present a decision regarding the indictment.

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