Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said a trial against Sheriff Robert Chody for evidence tampering is scheduled for Nov. 30 in a Sept. 28 news conference.
Dick said the charge carries a punishment of two to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional institutional division or probation and up to a $10,000 fine.
Dick added the timing of the indictment was not tied to the impending election for which Chody is up for re-election Nov. 3. Instead, he said his office was first notified of Ambler's death in May. After months of building the case and bringing 19 witnesses before the grand jury, it ultimately decided there was enough evidence to bring charges forward, he said. Jason Nassour, general counsel to Williamson County, was also indicted on similar charges.
"We didn't choose this timing," Dick said. "This incident happened a long time ago; the Williamson County District Attorney's office was just notified in May of 2020 of the death. That led us to start an investigation, and we've done that diligently as rapidly as we could."
Dick said a more extensive timeline will be set at the Nov. 30 court date.
In Travis County, where Chody could also face charges, a grand jury has been called, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said. The grand jury will begin to hear evidence in the case at the start of the new year, she added.
"We believe that there are facts supporting tampering in Travis County as well," Moore said.
In a separate news conference, Chody maintained his innocence, saying Dick and Moore were out for him and his re-election bid.
He added he has no intention of stepping down or resigning as the trial progresses.
"Obviously people that are charged with indictments always want to come up with some explanation or some sinister plot behind it. I think anyone that knows me knows that I'm driven very much by what's right and what's wrong and what the evidence tells us," Dick said in response. "I was elected to make sure that those that we believe have committed crimes are held accountable in an appropriate fashion. So I'm just here doing my job."
Ambler's sister, Kimberly Jones, told Community Impact Newspaper she is overwhelmed with emotion following news of the indictment.
"God is good," she said.
An investigation is still ongoing for sheriff's office deputies Zach Camden and J.J. Johnson, who were also involved in the incident.
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody was indicted by a grand jury Sept. 25 for evidence tampering following the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man who died in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office's custody in 2019.
The charges stem from a report that video evidence of the incident was destroyed. This is a third-degree felony, according to documents. Jason Nassour, general counsel to Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs, was also indicted on similar charges.
Grand juries determine whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal changes against an individual. They vote in secret.
After a 22-minute chase that ended with Ambler crashing his car in Austin, outside of the sheriff's office's jurisdiction, officers used taser stun guns on Ambler even after he informed deputies he had a heart condition and could not breathe, according to an internal affairs investigation report.
Ambler was being pulled over for failing to dim his high beams, documents stated.
His death was ruled a “justifiable homicide,” according to a report filed with the Texas attorney general's office. Ambler's death was filmed by “Live PD,” a documentary series on the A&E Network that follows law enforcement officers live in the course of their nighttime patrols.
A&E confirmed in June that “video of the tragic death of Javier Ambler was captured by body cams worn on the officers involved as well by the producers of Live PD who were riding with certain officers involved.”
The footage was not aired on TV, A&E said.
“As is the case with all footage taken by Live PD producers, we no longer retained the unaired footage after learning that the investigation had concluded,” the network said in a statement.
In June, it was also announced “Live PD” had been canceled following weeks of protests on police misconduct disproportionately against Black men and people of color—including the death of George Floyd.
“Live PD” has been at the center of controversy in Williamson County for over a year as Sheriff Robert Chody continued the filming of the show even after the Commissioners Court canceled its contract in August 2019.
Since then, three of the Williamson County Commissioners Court's five members have called for Chody’s resignation and in May filed a lawsuit against Chody for continuing to allow “Live PD” to film after the court ordered him to stop.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell continues to recuse himself from all “Live PD” matters.
Chody has stated several times he has no intention to resign. He could not be immediately reached for a response to the indictment.