Naked City

No Charges for Chapman

Retiring Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman will not face criminal charges that he committed perjury while under oath earlier this year, according to the Travis Co. district attorney's office -- but how they reached that conclusion is still a mystery. Assistant DA Claire Dawson Brown told the Chronicle that after reviewing statements taken by outside investigator James McLaughlin she was unable to find any "criminal conduct that could be prosecuted," she said. "It is very difficult to prosecute perjury," partially because of the "many nuances" of the English language, she said.

Chapman had been under investigation since late August, when APD Chief Stan Knee hired McLaughlin, general counsel for the Texas Police Chiefs Association, to conduct an inquiry into whether Chapman lied while under oath during a deposition taken in the whistle-blower lawsuit filed by Officer Jeff White. White claims he was transferred by Chapman in retaliation for allegations White made regarding Chapman's possible misconduct during and after the controversial Mala Sangre narcotics operation in the 1990s. During his deposition, Chapman claimed he had nothing to do with White's transfer and that he was "shocked" by the allegation.

Chapman's testimony regarding White's transfer was directly contradicted by Knee's own testimony in the White case, but the chief only asked McLaughlin to investigate whether Chapman also lied about a different matter -- trying to remove the phone records of Chapman's friend John Maspero, then an FBI agent and now the disgraced ex-Williamson Co. sheriff -- from an APD Internal Affairs file in a case unrelated to Mala Sangre. Although McLaughlin was initially given 30 days to complete that inquiry, his report was not presented to city officials until Dec. 17, one day before Chapman filed his paperwork to retire from the department and thus effectively escaped any possible discipline from Knee -- that is, if McLaughlin's $30,000 taxpayer-funded inquiry actually determined that Chapman lied under oath. The results of the inquiry are officially unavailable; sources tell the Chronicle that after nearly four months of investigation, McLaughlin determined only that the case against Chapman was "inconclusive."

Apparently the DA's office took its cue from McLaughlin's report -- and only McLaughlin's report. It is unclear whether either McLaughlin or the DA's office actually read any of the deposition testimony taken in the case -- either from Chapman or from former IA detectives Gary Fleming and Rick Cockman, who each testified that Chapman and Maspero came to them and demanded the removal of the Maspero records. Cockman added that he'd tried reporting the incident numerous times, "which is what really surprises me about this independent investigator and everything," he testified. "I have been telling people about this for three or four years and nobody seemed to care."

White's attorney Don Feare said that McLaughlin contacted him once, seeking a copy of White's deposition testimony, but never asked for any other transcripts. Feare added that Lowell Denton, the attorney defending the city against White's suit, assured Feare that he had no contact with McLaughlin and was staying away from the independent inquiry. "The allegation is that [Chapman] committed perjury in testimony while under oath," Feare said. "Yet they didn't read [Chapman's] testimony? The DA made a determination based off of some notes taken by a guy [McLaughlin] who was paid $30,000 by an interested party. But sworn testimony always trumps some guy's notes."

Feare feels the Chapman affair proves that APD and City Hall leaders would rather not dive deeper into the ethical allegations surrounding Mala Sangre. "It would have been proper to go to [DA] Ronnie Earle and ask that [he] empanel a special grand jury," he said. But by making their determination based on McLaughlin's report, "the DA has cut off the right of the people to have a police officer investigated for perjury." he said. "How much credibility does the city have if they are willing to throw this case in the trash can? If truth and integrity in Austin were on the commodities market, they would not be trading well."

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