8 Rape Charges Tossed in Fatal Carjacking of Knoxville Couple

Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel, May 29, 2009

State prosecutors agreed this morning to slim down the 41-count indictment in a fatal carjacking, tossing out eight rape counts.

Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price agreed to merge 16 rape charges into a bundle of eight after Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner pointed out they were duplicative.

The rape counts at issue allege, in the first eight rape charges, that the rapes were carried out through the use of force. The second set of eight charges allege the same rapes were carried out through coercion.

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It doesn’t make any real difference in the outcome of the case, however. If the suspects had been convicted of all 16 rapes, the law would require the judge to merge those anyway.

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On Thursday, Baumgartner said in an order that he was forced to delay two trials in the torture-slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23, in part because of the prosecution’s delay in turning over a document that declares one suspect blameless in the case.

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[Editor’s Note: Other stories related to the rapes and murder of Christian Channon and Christopher Newsom are listed here. In particular, see the Special to AR News by Nicholas Stix, “The Knoxville Horror: The Crime and the Cover-Up.“]

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the title as shown above. Sometime Friday afternoon, it was changed to “Prosecutors Trim Duplicative Charges in Fatal Carjacking of Knoxville Couple”]


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Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner ruled that Letalvis Cobbins will not be tried [In the Christian-Newsom fatal carjacking] July 6, as scheduled, but instead will face trial on Aug. 12.

The decision essentially delays the remaining three trials set for Cobbins’ co-defendants, all of whom are being tried separately in the torture slayings of University of Tennessee student Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend Christopher Newsom, 23.

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Chief among his [the judge’s] concerns is a pending motion to dismiss the case against Cobbins’ girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman, 21. Cobbins, 26, wants to use her as a witness, but she almost certainly would invoke her right against self-incrimination if charges against her were still in place.

Baumgartner said until he resolves that motion, Cobbins’ case is a bit in limbo.

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Cobbins’ new trial date of Aug. 12 is two days after Coleman would have been tried, so Baumgartner in his order also canceled Coleman’s trial date.

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