A Travis County grand jury has added a new charge against former Williamson County sheriff Robert Chody and assistant county attorney Jason Nassour relating to their handling of the investigation into the death of Javier Ambler II.
Chody and Nassour face an additional charge of conspiracy to tamper with evidence, according to indictments obtained Tuesday. They already were charged with evidence tampering, which both have denied.
The indictment alleges that they entered into an access agreement with the production company for "Live PD" “to destroy raw unaired audio and video footage” and that they “performed an overt act” the night of Ambler’s death.
That act allowed the video to be taken away from the scene “knowing that an in-custody investigation or official proceeding was pending or in progress involving the death of Javier Ambler,” according to the indictment.
The additional charge comes as attorneys for Chody and Nassour, who were both on the scene in the hours after Ambler's death, have sought to have the cases against them thrown out. They say their clients committed no crime.
Most recently, attorney Keith Hampton, who represents Nassour, asked a judge to dismiss the indictment because the wording of the document failed to give proper legal notice of allegations that would allow him to prepare a defense, a motion said.
Dexter Gilford, director of the Travis County district attorney's Civil Rights Unit, said prosecutors altered the language "to better clarify conduct that we believe violated the law."
Hampton said Tuesday that he was not prepared to comment.
"I am trying to wrap my mind around it," he said.
Morris said the new charge against Chody is an attempt to "rearrange chairs on the Titanic. They know the case is going to get dismissed sooner or later."
He said not only did Chody commit no crime, federal law blocked law enforcement from confiscating "Live PD" footage that night.
Chody, was not reelected and left office Dec. 31, while Nassour remains on the county payroll. They were first charged in September with evidence tampering relating to footage from “Live PD” in Ambler’s death. In March, a grand jury in Travis County charged them with the same crime after prosecutors said they committed acts in Austin relating to the video.
This summer, prosecutors for Williamson and Travis counties announced the cases would be handled in Austin.
Deputies J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden had “Live PD” production crews with them in March 2019 when they began chasing Ambler in a pursuit that started because he failed to dim his headlights.
The 22-minute chase crossed into Austin, where Johnson and Camden used Tasers on Ambler four times as he gasped that he had congestive heart failure and could not breathe.
Ambler died moments later.
Johnson and Camden have been indicted on manslaughter charges.
The American-Statesman and KVUE-TV revealed details of Ambler’s death in June 2020, and Big Fish Entertainment, which canceled production of the highly rated show, said it had destroyed its footage.
That revelation triggered an investigation that led to the indictments of Chody and Nassour.
Prosecutors have not described what specific actions the two allegedly took. The case was build on grand jury testimony, and transcripts have not been made public.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Former sheriff Robert Chody facing new charge in Javier Ambler death