Roman Chapa, the jockey indicted by a Harris County grand jury last week for attempting to influence a horse race by shocking a horse, was scheduled for an arraignment for 9 a.m. Wednesday. However, when Chapa arrived at the 176th Criminal Court at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center Wednesday morning, he was arrested over new charges.
On January 17, the six-year-old thoroughbred Quiet Acceleration galloped across the finish line with 43-year-old jockey Chapa aboard to win the $50,000 Richard King Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park. The race was a photo finish and the photos, shot by track photographer Jack Coady, captured Chapa's victory. However, the images also showed Chapa clutching a small nude-colored object in his left palm, a buzzer, an electric shocking device that can be used to shock a horse and get it to move faster. Buzzers are banned from racing.
Rumors about the photo started circulating around the racing world almost as soon as it was posted online at the Sam Houston Race Park website. Chapa started calling and texting Coady after the photos were posted, pushing Coady to take the photos down, according to the criminal complaint filed by Trooper Jeff Green, who investigated the incident on behalf of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Coady says he told Chapa that he had no control over the website but that Chapa continued to ask him to remove the photos, according to court documents. Coady showed Green his cell phone log and the text messages Coady received from Chapa pressuring Coady to take down the photos.
The Texas Racing Commission held a hearing on the incident on January 19. Chapa was suspended from racing while the commission investigated the incident. Chapa argued that Coady had Photoshopped the buzzer into the incriminating image. He also told the Texas Racing Commission that he never tried to contact Coady about the photo.
Along the way, the Harris County District Attorney's Office got involved and he was charged with unlawful influence on racing, a felony, and then indicted for the alleged crime last week. The arraignment Wednesday was supposed to be focused on the actual race, but things changed a bit when Judge Stacey Bond called for a lawyer representing Chapa and asked if the lawyer knew Chapa had been arrested when he arrived at the courthouse Wednesday morning. "I'm only just finding that out now," the lawyer replied. The two nodded and a few minutes later, Chapa was trotted out before the court. Bond muttered a few words and Chapa, hands behind back in handcuffs, bobbed his head at the judge and then was marched back out of the courtroom.
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So why was Chapa arrested? When Chapa was being interviewed by the investigators with the Texas Racing Commission, he allegedly told them that he didn't try to call or text Coady about the photo, Jeff McShan, public information officer for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said. Investigators concluded that Chapa, based on phone records, was not telling the truth, which is why charges were filed at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday night and why Chapa has been charged with "lying to Racing Commission investigators during a criminal investigation," according to McShan. McShan said the exact charges are not yet in the system. Chapa is currently still in custody.
This isn't the first time Chapa has been caught with a buzzer. In 1993, he was suspended in Texas for 19 months after being caught with a buzzer, according to the New York Times. In 2007, New Mexico racing officials gave Chapa a five-year suspension for being caught with a buzzer.
If the name of Chapa's lawyer on file, former Bexar County judge Angus McGinty, rings a bell, it's because he's the judge who resigned in 2014 and went back to private practice shortly before he was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly soliciting and accepting bribes. We called McGinty to see if Chapa's camp had any comment. "We don't have any comment on Roman Chapa. Thank You." Click.
McShan said the exact charges should be available soon.