State Protection Investigator Reached a Plea Deal in an Unusual Witness Fraud Case

One of South Florida’s most unusual witness-tampering cases was uncovered Wednesday when an investigator for state-funded attorneys struck a plea deal that spared him from trial on charges carrying a maximum life sentence.

Gentry Chambers, 45, was arrested two years ago after Broward County prosecutors said he conspired to influence a witness who was willing to testify against a client of Chambers’s employer, the state-funded Criminal and Civil Division.

What he didn’t know was that the witness had been working with Broward Sheriff’s office for several months, investigating threats to her and her family from a man she saw shoot her then-boyfriend during an attempted robbery outside a 7-Eleven store in Fort Lauderdale in 2019.

Among those detained over the past week, a man was shot during an armed robbery. The man he said shot him was an investigator working for the shooter’s defense team. Reported by Tony Pipitone of NBC 6.

A witness brought a hidden camera to a meeting at the regional prosecutor’s offices with Chambers and two others, including the shooting victim. The state alleged that Chambers helped “fake” key parts of her videotaped false statement, which was released to law enforcement in an attempt to get the shooter dropped.

Instead, the shooter, the victim of the shooting, an associate who paid the woman $500 to recant, and Chambers were arrested in June 2021, with charges brought by the state carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.

But on Wednesday, ahead of the trial, the state struck a plea deal: Chambers pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges of lying to law enforcement and will not serve a prison sentence and will receive a three-year probationary period during which he cannot work as an investigator.

Asked what Chambers went through, his attorney Sam Halpern told NBC6: “It was a tough time, as you can imagine, having to deal with the specter of prison life.”

After his arrest, Chambers continued to work—albeit not as an investigator—in the office of a regional attorney who represents defendants in complex cases where conflicts arise with co-defendants or with other lawyers. His employer told the court that he would not be used by them as an investigator even after he completed his three-year probationary period.

Asked how the state moved from life-related felony charges to misdemeanors, Halpern said: “It was a weak case at first. I think it’s a weak case now.”

But the strength of the case has certainly changed, as a state attorney’s office spokesman told NBC6 that the key witness was no longer “cooperating and communicating.”

Both the state and the defense noted how the cases of other defendants were decided in comparison.

“There were a number of other defendants who were much, much, much more guilty than Gentry,” Halpern added. “Gentry had just a streak of guilt compared to the rest.”

Others include:

  • Kevin Peoples, the man who shot the witness’ boyfriend, is identified in court records as a member of the Bloods gang;
  • Gerald Pendergrass, the man who was shot by Peoples but who accompanied his then ex-girlfriend, a witness to recant at a meeting with Chambers; And
  • Jeremiah Jones, another man at the meeting, paid the witness $500 in cash after she recanted her testimony.

Peoples is serving eight years in prison for the attempted murder of Pendergrass and pleaded guilty to witness tampering.

Jones was sentenced to five years for his role in witness tampering.

And Pendergrass’s charges were dropped after he was deemed mentally incapable to act in court.

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