CHARLESTON – Misdemeanor charges against a former WSAZ meteorologist who had been accused of assaulting a co-worker at a Charleston bar have been dismissed.
The battery charge against Chelsea Ambriz, 26, was dismissed Jan. 8 in Kanawha Magistrate Court after fellow former WSAZ employee Erica Bivens didn’t show up for the court hearing.
“I’m just very relieved,” Ambriz said shortly after the hearing. “It’s good to know that the judicial system works.”
Ambriz had been charged following an incident at a Charleston bar on Aug. 26 following the annual Girls Night Out charity event. According to the criminal complaint, Bivens suffered a skull fracture and a ruptured eardrum after Ambriz allegedly shoved her down.
The altercation began after Bivens claimed Ambriz was hitting on her husband. Bivens told Charleston police she confronted Ambriz, and they began shoving each other before falling to the floor.
Joseph Spano, Ambriz’s attorney, said he had impartial witnesses who witnessed the fight who would have cleared his client’s name.
“Through my investigator and through statements and affidavits, we would have shown that Erica was the aggressor and tried to attach Chelsea. Tried to put her in a chokehold. Chelsea apparently got out of that and they fell to the floor. That’s when Erica fell, and that caused her facial injuries.
“But Chelsea had injuries, too. She had bruising on both of her arms.”
Spano said he commended Magistrate Brent Hall and the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney’s office for the work they did on the case, too.
“We were set for trial,” Spano said. “We had filed a motion to dismiss on Dec. 27 saying there was insufficient evidence against my client. And when Erica didn’t show up today, they didn’t have anyone to testify.
“We, however, had four witnesses. The testimony would have shown that Erica was the aggressor. The prosecutors subpoenaed Erica, but she didn’t show. We understand she has a new job.
“Magistrate Hall first granted my motion to proceed to trial and denied the state’s motion to continue. He gave the state 10 minutes, but they had no witnesses. So, we then moved for dismissal, and the state agreed to it.”
As of Jan. 7, Bevins is working for a television station in Lexington, Ky., as a morning anchor.
Ambriz posted a statement on her professional Facebook page after the hearing.
“I’m so relieved to finally start rebuilding my life,” she wrote. “My attorney, Joesph Spano, has said from the beginning I was wrongfully charged without a proper investigation. I did not do the things I was accused of and that would’ve come out, in detail, during court today if the state’s ‘victim’ showed. She didn’t, so we weren’t able to proceed and the case was dismissed.”
Spano said he hates that Ambriz already had been convicted publicly.
“In the public’s eye and the media’s eyes, she was guilty,” Spano said. “That includes national media. I’ve had calls from all over, including California. And Chelsea has to deal with that now. Any job interview, she’ll always have to answer for this.
“But the testimony would have shown Erica was the aggressor and tried to put Chelsea in a headlock.
“It worked out for Chelsea today. But it’s going to be tough for her. It’s always going to follow her. From the get-go, I think the wrong person was charged. But that happens.”
Ambriz said it’s been hard not being able to talk about the incident.
“I just felt it was better if I didn’t interact because I didn’t want to hinder the investigation that was ongoing,” she said. “It’s nice to know the truth came out. I’m just glad with what happened today.
“There are a lot more details that aren’t out there. I’m not ready for that to come to light yet. We had four witnesses ready to testify. They were all going to prove my innocence. Character witnesses and people who saw the incident.”
Now, she said she’s trying to move on.
“I’m trying to rebuild my life and my career,” Ambriz said. “I can’t deny that there is negativity out there. Yeah, it’s hard.
“But, I do want to say thank you to those who believed in me and knew there was another side. It was good to have support when there was an overwhelming negative response.”
Ambriz worked at WSAZ for nearly two years. Before that, the Purdue University graduate worked two years at a television station in Jackson, Tenn.
“It’s been extremely hard to get a job, so I’m going to be starting from the bottom,” she said. “I’m just want to rebuild my life and my career.”