Former SFA UPD assistant chief accepts 1 year deferred for falsifying government records

Updated: Jul. 6, 2017 at 12:01 PM CDT
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Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A little less than a month after he resigned from his position as the assistant chief of the Stephen F. Austin State University Police Department, Chris Rivers has accepted a plea bargain deal of one year of deferred adjudication for falsifying government documents in May of 2016.

According to court records, Rivers defrauded the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement by saying in government records that he attended an active shooter response course when he actually did not attend the training.

East Texas News reached out to SFA and SFA UPD for comment, but officials with the university and the police department declined comment because Rivers is a former employee.

Andrew Jones, a prosecutor and spokesman with the Nacogdoches County District Attorney's Office, said his office recused itself from Rivers' case, but could not comment on why they did so.

Rivers, who was facing a state-jail felony tampering with a government record charge, waived his right to a grand jury session on Wednesday, and accepted a plea bargain deal for a lesser Class A misdemeanor tampering with a government record charge.

If Rivers' case had gone to a jury trial, and he had been found guilty, he would have faced a sentence of up to one year of confinement in the Nacogdoches County Jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

A person on deferred adjudication is required to serve terms and conditions similar to those faced by someone who has been sentenced to probation. However, the difference is that if a person on deferred adjudication stays out of trouble for the entire time, he or she will not have a felony conviction.

A deferred adjudication sentence will show up on a criminal background check.

In addition to the sentence of one year of deferred adjudication, Rivers will be required to pay a $200 fine. As part of the agreement, the Nacogdoches County District Attorney's Office agreed to not file any additional charges against Rivers for any related conduct like falsifying TCOLE hours.

Rivers will also be required to the standard conditions of community supervision/deferred adjudication and surrender her his TCOLE peace officer's license and providing proof of that to the State of Texas. In addition, the plea bargain required Rivers to resign from the SFA University Police Department.

Another condition stated that Rivers will cooperate fully with the State of Texas in any related criminal proceedings and testify truthfully "in any further proceedings against any possible co-defendants."

Rivers' plea agreement came as the result of an ongoing TCOLE investigation into the SFA University Police Department. Back in December of 2016, a university spokesperson confirmed allegations of training violations.

When Rivers resigned from the SFA University Police Department, he cited personal reasons. SFA Police Chief Mark Cossich refused to comment on the matter back in June and said it was a personnel issue.

Last year, defense attorney Sean Hightower was investigating the law enforcement training background of one person when his alleged findings snowballed, according to a previous East Texas News story.

"Those records were maintained by UPD where they would sign in on the hardcopy," Hightower said. "When they would be entered digitally, other names were added."

Hightower said he stumbled upon the alleged finding because he knew an instructor very well.

"We knew that some of the instructors had taught the classes," Hightower said. "We actually employ one of the instructors at our office as an investigator."

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement allows instructors to collect students' names, but it's a designated law enforcement officer who posts them on the state's data system.

"Typically, it's the chief or the assistant chief of every department," Hightower said.

Hightower turned his suspicions and findings into the state.

"They would add their names to the list not having attended the classes," Hightower said. "And I believe it happened multiple times."

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