Charges against a soldier accused of attacking a pregnant Army wife are changed from attempted murder to burglary
The story made news worldwide and sent shudders through the military community. Now, the soldier accused of attacking and stabbing a pregnant Army wife in her own home while her deployed husband watched on FaceTime is facing a charge that his victims view as insufficient.
Last October, 31-year-old Rachel Poole was communicating with her husband, Justin Poole, on FaceTime when a man came into their off-post El Paso home and brutally attacked her. Justin Poole saw some of the attack and heard his nine months pregnant wife identify her attacker. She said he was a 19-year-old Fort Bliss soldier named Corey Bernard Moss. The Pooles knew Moss well because they had loaned him money.
When her attacker left, a badly injured Rachel called 911 and Justin called Moss’ co-workers, who restrained him until police arrived. Moss was arrested and police say he admitted to the attack, allegedly telling them that he broke into the Poole’s home while Rachel was gone and then hid and waited for her to come home. Rachel told an El Paso television station that the attack left her permanently blind in her left eye and with spinal and nerve damage for life.
Moss was booked into jail on a charge of criminal attempted murder and Rachel, who spent a month in the hospital because of her injuries, was in the Intensive Care Unit when she gave birth to their daughter, Isabella.
During Moss’ arraignment earlier this month the Pooles learned that the charges against him have been changed from attempted murder to burglary with intent to commit a felony. Moss has pleaded not guilty.
A judge issued a gag order prohibiting Rachel Poole from commenting on the matter and she and Justin Poole declined to be interviewed for this story. Last week Justin Poole posted this comment on his personal Facebook page:
“There are people out there that have forced Rachel’s story to stop being told in fear. They want us silenced in order not to look bad for choices and decisions they have made not in the public eye. I’m here to say we didn’t choose any of this, nor did we want to be victims. I refuse to let someone try to make this horrific event to be forgotten to help you look better. Or for you to just to make Rachel just another numbered victim. Because even though my wife fought and survived would you still be sitting on your high horse if my daughter who was scheduled to be born the following week of the tragedy had not survived.”
El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza has characterized the change in the charge as an effort to insure that Moss will be convicted and will go to jail. The two charges – attempted murder and burglary with the intent to commit a felony – carry the same punishment, five to 99 years in jail.
David Nachtigall, a former felony prosecutor currently in private practice in Houston, Texas, explained why Esparza’s office likely made the change:
“The prosecutors in this case are primarily concerned with securing a conviction,” Natchtigall said. “While the charge of attempted capital murder may sound more serious than a charge of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony, they are both first degree felonies and carry the same potential punishment. This means that regardless of whether Moss were to be convicted of burglary or attempted capital murder, he would face the same range of punishment – 5 to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.”
Natchtigall explained that in a trial for attempted capital murder, the prosecution must prove that Moss specifically intended to kill – and not just to harm – Rachel. For the burglary charge, the prosecutors need only to prove that Moss entered her home without permission and assaulted her.
“While changing the charge may appear to the public as though the prosecutors are somehow minimizing the severity of the offense, the reality is that prosecution is only aiming to reduce the risk of Moss being acquitted,” Natchtigall said. “If Moss is convicted of burglary of habitation, the judge or jury will hear all of the same evidence they would have in an attempted capital murder case, and will have the same option of sending Moss to prison for up to life.”
Natchtigall said that in deciding to change the charge, the prosecutors probably reasoned that they were more likely to secure a conviction if they only had to prove that Moss entered the home without permission and assaulted Rachel.
But that reasoning is of little comfort to the Pooles and their friends, who have now turned to social media and old-fashioned activism to attempt to pressure Esparza’s office to again charge Moss with attempted murder. A Facebook group supporting their efforts currently has 1,500 likes and more than 1,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling for the Governor of Texas to investigate. Last week the Poole’s supporters held a peaceful protest at El Paso County Courthouse, all efforts for which Justin and Rachel seem grateful.
In Facebook status update last week, Justin encouraged their supporters, writing: “Keep the pressure on please everyone because before this we were strangers but now we are family. Don’t let Rachel be a statistic. This is not for anything other than justice.”
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