Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody petitions to keep his sworn testimony sealed in ‘Live PD’ contract case

Robert Chody (Courtesy)
Robert Chody (Courtesy)

Robert Chody (Courtesy)

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody filed a motion Sept. 30 to keep sworn testimony sealed from the public in a legal battle between the sheriff and the county commissioners over a “Live PD” contracting dispute.

The motion seeks to restrict any publication of any recording or transcript of the deposition into the public domain or the media as well as requests specific protection from any questions surrounding or otherwise related to Javier Ambler’s death and its subsequent investigation.

The county’s four commissioners voted to sue the sheriff and Big Fish Entertainment LLC after he and the production company continued to allow “Live PD”—a documentary series on the A&E Network that follows law-enforcement officers live in the course of their nighttime patrols—to film in Williamson County after the court voted to end its contract with the show in August 2019.

By law, the court has full authority on entering and terminating county contracts, according to the Texas Association of Counties. In the lawsuit, the court argues Chody undermined their authority by entering a contract with Big Fish Entertainment to continue the filming of the show, which he has no authority to do.

The court also argues that by doing so, Chody left the county at risk for an increase in insurance and legal costs. The county also hired the outside legal representation of Howry Breen & Herman LLP and the Law Office of Randy Leavitt in May because County Attorney Dee Hobbs and General Counsel to Williamson County Jason Nassour, have represented the sheriff in the matter rather than the county, County Commissioner Russ Boles said.

Boles said Chody’s desire to keep the sworn testimony sealed is antithetical to the sheriff’s stance that he believes in ultimate transparency, something he said “Live PD” encourages.

“Sheriff Chody told me he wanted to appear on ‘Live PD’ to show his transparency; now he is using every legal maneuver possible to keep his deposition and correspondence from the public,” Boles said. “If Sheriff Chody really wants the public to hear all of the evidence, he should want the public to hear his side of this story under oath. Being an elected official, the public should demand it.”

As for keeping Ambler’s name out of questioning, Chody is currently facing a separate legal battle involving Ambler's death in which he was indicted Sept. 25 for evidence tampering.

Ambler, a Black man, died while in Williamson County Sheriff's Office custody in March 2019. His death was filmed by but not aired on “Live PD.” Those recordings have since been deleted.

Chody maintains his innocence, claiming the charges to be part of a political ploy by the Williamson and Travis counties district attorneys as Chody is up for re-election in November.

“[District Attorney] Shawn Dick is pushing and misleading stories while pursuing false prosecution,” Chody said at the time. “I find it shocking and disgusting that our district attorney uses his office for political agenda.”

The show “Live PD” was canceled June 10 following weeks of protests on police misconduct disproportionately against black men and people of color—including the death of George Floyd. But its host Dan Abrams tweeted Sept. 3 to the potential of its restarting.

I (and many others) am continuing to push for its return and promise that I will update when we have any news,” the tweet read.

Boles said if “Live PD” was to re-air, even if in a different format, he fears the sheriff will once again undermine the court’s current stance to not contract with the show.

“In his pursuit of personal fame he illegally contracted with ‘Live PD’ and may have exposed the county to massive liability,” Boles said. “There is no question about it: The county has incurred substantial legal fees because of him, to get him to stop.”

Chody’s attorney Eric Taube did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


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