Travis County DA drops domestic violence case against fired UT-Austin basketball coach

Chris Beard, the former head coach of the Texas Longhorns men's basketball team, during a game at the Moody Center in Austin on Nov. 16, 2022. The Travis County district attorney said Wednesday his office would drop a family violence case against Beard, who was fired after he was arrested in December. (Scott Wachter-Usa Today Sports Via Reuters, Scott Wachter-Usa Today Sports Via Reuters)

Find local resources through the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For 24/7 assistance, call 800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office has dropped all charges against Chris Beard, the former head basketball coach for the University of Texas at Austin who was fired last month after authorities accused him of strangling his fiancee.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza said Wednesday his agency takes all domestic abuse cases seriously but decided they did not have sufficient evidence to pursue a conviction.

“After a careful and thorough review of the evidence, recent public statements, and considering Ms. [Randi] Trew’s wishes, our office has determined that the felony offense cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” read a statement from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

Beard faced a third-degree felony charge for family violence. Trew, his fiancee, later made public statements denying that Beard had strangled her.

“Everyone knows that Coach Beard has maintained his absolute innocence since the moment he was arrested,” Perry Minton, Beard’s lawyer, told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “Additionally, this district attorney has a well-earned reputation for being very tough regarding domestic violence cases. The fact that Mr. Garza’s review resulted in this determination so quickly says a lot. We are very pleased.”

Minton declined further comment when reached by The Texas Tribune. UT-Austin did not respond to a request for comment.

UT-Austin fired Beard in early January, three weeks after he was arrested.

Beard’s contract contained a standard clause among agreements with the university that allowed them to suspend or fire Beard with cause for any behavior that is “unbecoming” or leads to a criminal charge “involving a felony, or any crime involving theft, dishonesty, or moral turpitude.”

At the time, Minton released a statement saying that Beard was “crushed” he would not be coaching at the university and accused the university of promising to conduct an independent investigation before making a decision regarding his employment.

“They proceeded to terminate Coach Beard without asking a single question of him or his fiancee,” Minton said, adding that he believed the charges would be dropped.

“I am concerned that the University of Texas has made a terrible decision against the interest of the University, based on Twitter feeds and editorials — and not the facts concerning a truly innocent man. The University has violated their agreement with the coach, and we are devastated,” he said.

In a letter sent to Minton by UT-Austin’s legal team upon Beard’s termination, UT-Austin Vice President for Legal Affairs Jim Davis said the university and athletic director Chris Del Conte “exercised thoughtful restraint to allow time for additional material facts to emerge” before acting.

“It is a mistake to view a manager’s support for an employee as a statement of belief in criminal guilt or innocence,” Davis wrote. “It is his actual behavior that we consider, not whether some acts also constitute a crime. Whether or not the District Attorney ultimately charges Mr. Beard is not determinative of whether he engaged in conduct unbecoming a head coach at our university.”

Beard was hired by UT-Austin in 2021, when the university paid $4 million to buy out his contract at Texas Tech University. He was one of the university’s highest-paid employees.

Since Beard was fired for cause, the university does not need to pay out the remainder of his contract, according to UT-Austin senior communications manager Brian Davis.

Beard was arrested Dec. 12 after Austin police responded to a 911 call at a Tarrytown home early that morning.

According to a copy of the arrest affidavit posted on Twitter by Orangebloods reporter Anwar Richardson, Beard’s fiancee alleged that the two got in an argument when she grabbed Beard’s glasses out of his hands and broke them. In the affidavit, she said that he slapped her glasses off her face and then choked her with his arm from behind for around five seconds.

In the affidavit, police noted visible teeth marks and redness on her right forearm.

Trew released a statement on Twitter on Dec. 23 denying that Beard strangled her and stating that Beard told police he was acting in self-defense.

“I do not refute that,” she said in the statement. “I do not believe Chris was trying to intentionally harm me in any way. It was never my intent to have him arrested or prosecuted.”

Associate Head Coach Rodney Terry will remain UT’s acting head coach for the rest of the Longhorn season.

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