The Mala Sangre Calendar

What's the difference between confusion and possible perjury? A couple of weeks.

Deposition testimony taken earlier this month in connection with the ongoing whistle-blower lawsuit filed by Austin Police Officer Jeff White not only (once again) challenges the veracity of former APD Assistant Chief Jimmy Chapman, but also that of veteran APD Detective Howard Staha, who was deposed in the case last fall. White filed suit in May 2002, claiming Chapman transferred him from APD's organized crime detail and blocked his bid for assignment to an FBI-led joint terrorism task force in retaliation for comments White made to investigators regarding Chapman's possible involvement in the mid-Nineties drug-trafficking investigation code-named Mala Sangre – a probe that was shut down after, allegedly, getting too close to uncovering evidence of wrongdoing by APD officers.

Chapman, who retired from APD in December 2003 on the heels of an outside investigation sparked by his own testimony in the White case, has long expressed shock at the allegations and dismissed them as completely without merit. But Chapman's version of events has been challenged by several other witnesses – including Staha, who on Sept. 17 testified during a deposition that Chapman decided to transfer White away from organized crime (and not to anywhere else, leaving White adrift) in mid-December 2001. This contradicted Chapman, who testified that White's transfer wasn't his idea and that he didn't learn about it until after it became official in January 2002.

However, on Oct. 24 Staha penned a correction to his deposition testimony that was subsequently filed in district court – saying that he went into the September deposition without any idea about what would be asked or what dates "were going to be important" and that during his deposition he "continuously" advised the attorneys that he wasn't sure when it was that he'd talked to Chapman about White's transfer. After reading reports about his testimony in the newspaper, he decided to start "researching" the date. "I am now convinced that my conversation with Chapman occurred sometime after the week of January 14, 2002," he wrote – a date a full month later than he'd indicated in his deposition and, conveniently, one that coincides almost perfectly with Chapman's testimony. (Although Staha did testify in September that he wasn't entirely sure of the date, he also said he was positive it was before he left for Christmas vacation.)

Unfortunately, Staha's revised version of events – and, by extension, Chapman's original version – has been challenged by a local undercover federal agent deposed in the case earlier this month. According to the agent, he and Staha had a phone conversation at least three weeks before White's mid-January transfer, during which Staha told the agent that White was going to be transferred out of organized crime, a fact he'd learned during a personnel meeting led by Chapman.

"I have asked you whether ... Staha attributed this information to Chapman," White's attorney Don Feare said during the deposition. "As I understand your answer, it was no."

"I don't know if that was maybe speculated or not. I don't recall [Staha] ever saying Jimmy Chapman ever told him this," the agent testified. "But he was at a meeting with Jimmy Chapman, who was in charge."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

APD, Mala Sangre, Bad Blood, Jimmy Chapman, Jeff White, Don Feare, Howard Staha

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