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.