John Chambers v. State

NUMBER 13-16-00079-CR COURT OF APPEALS THIRTEENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS CORPUS CHRISTI – EDINBURG JOHN CHAMBERS, Appellant, v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee. On appeal from the 103rd District Court of Cameron County, Texas. MEMORANDUM OPINION ON REMAND Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Rodriguez1 and Longoria Memorandum Opinion on Remand by Chief Justice Contreras This case is on remand from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Appellant John Chambers, the former police chief of the small community of Indian Lake in Cameron County, was charged with fourteen counts of tampering with governmental records with 1 The Honorable Nelda V. Rodriguez, former Justice of this Court, was a member of the panel at the time this case was submitted but did not participate in this decision because her term of office expired on December 31, 2018. intent to defraud or harm, each a state jail felony. See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 37.10(c)(1). Trial evidence established that, in January 2015, appellant was advised by a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) agent that firearms qualifications records for several Indian Lake reserve officers were missing. Appellant then instructed a subordinate officer to create records falsely stating that fourteen reserve officers had passed a firearms training course using appellant’s pistol. Appellant was found guilty on all counts—one for each of the falsified documents—and he was sentenced to concurrent two-year prison terms, probated for five years. In 2017, we affirmed the conviction, concluding that: (1) the documents appellant directed to be falsified were “governmental records” under the broad statutory definition; (2) appellant was not entitled to a jury charge instruction on local government code § 341.012, which authorizes a municipality to establish a reserve police force; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to show that appellant acted with the “intent to defraud or harm” the State, despite the fact there was no allegation or proof that he deprived the State of a pecuniary or property interest. Chambers v. State, 523 S.W.3d 681, 685–91 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi–Edinburg 2017), aff’d in part & rev’d in part, 580 S.W.3d 149 (Tex. Crim. App. 2019). As part of his first issue, appellant contended that a broad interpretation of “governmental records” would lead to an absurd result because “[i]t would include virtually any piece of paper with information kept at a police department.” 523 S.W.3d at 687. We disagreed, in part because the statutory defense provided in § 37.10(f) “serves as a safety valve that would generally prevent conviction in cases where the record at issue . . . is insignificant or otherwise unrelated to the entity’s governmental function.” Id. at 687–88. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed our judgment with respect to 2 appellant’s first and second issues. See 580 S.W.3d at 157–58 (agreeing that the documents were “governmental records” and noting that appellant was not harmed by the lack of a jury instruction on local government code § 341.012). However, the Court reversed as to appellant’s third issue, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to show …Original document