Coleman gets 53 years in Christian-Newsom case

Coleman gets 53 years in Christian-Newsom case

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Vanessa Coleman Vanessa Coleman
Channon Christian's mother, Deena, told Coleman in her victim's impact statement, "You've tried to play yourself off as a victim. You're not a victim." Channon Christian's mother, Deena, told Coleman in her victim's impact statement, "You've tried to play yourself off as a victim. You're not a victim."
Channon's father, Gary Christian, said in his statement, "This community is appalled by these crimes. This community is angered by this true evil." Channon's father, Gary Christian, said in his statement, "This community is appalled by these crimes. This community is angered by this true evil."
"In my judgment, she substantially assisted in the assaults and rapes," Judge Richard Baumgartner said as he spoke about considering Coleman's sentence. "In my judgment, she substantially assisted in the assaults and rapes," Judge Richard Baumgartner said as he spoke about considering Coleman's sentence.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Vanessa Coleman was sentenced to 53 years in a mix of consecutive and concurrent sentences Friday for her convictions on lesser charges in the Christian-Newsom murders case.

Coleman, 21, will be required to serve 30 percent of her sentence before she's eligible for parole.

She was convicted in May of facilitating the first degree murder, kidnapping, rape and theft of Channon Christian.

Coleman was acquitted on first degree murder charges so the possibility of the death penalty was removed.

She was found not guilty of the counts of murdering, kidnapping or raping Christian's boyfriend, Chris Newsom.

The pair was carjacked, raped multiple times and killed in January 2007.

The state was seeking a maximum sentence of 77 years.

Coleman's attorneys are expected to appeal her sentence. They have also requested a date to debate a motion for a new trial. It's scheduled for May 27, 2011.

"In my judgment, she substantially assisted in the assaults and rapes," Judge Richard Baumgartner said as he spoke about considering her sentence.

He also said he believed Coleman knew what was happening to the victims because Christian was tortured, raped and murdered in an 800 square foot home on Chipman Street in East Knoxville.

The judge said Coleman was a street smart 18-year-old drug user when the crimes happened and he didn't think her youth should mitigate her sentence.

"I don't think she was under duress," the judge said or dominated by her co-defendants.

"There's no mathematical formula for sentencing," Judge Baumgartner said. "I can't get by the fact that this is one of the most troubling case I've ever encountered." In fact the judge also called it "the most heinous" he's ever seen.

Christian family: "In it for the long haul"

Christian's mother Deena warned Coleman on Friday that she would be at Coleman's parole hearings.

She and her husband, Gary, said Coleman is getting away with murder, but Gary added that "her adventure has just begun" referring to her description of her time in Knoxville as an "adventure" in her journal.

When asked about the possibility of re-trials, the couple said "We're in it for the long haul."

Coleman family says "not over"

Vanessa Coleman's family declined to speak on camera after the sentencing, but her father, Greg, said, "It ain't over yet."

Victim impact statements

Deena told Coleman in her victim's impact statement, "You've tried to play yourself off as a victim. You're not a victim."

Coleman denies hearing Christian's screams inside the Chipman Street home. The Christians called Coleman a liar.

"You saw her in the flesh as she was beaten, tortured and raped," said Deena.

"There is also no way that a woman could have taken the brutal torture that my daughter took and not scream," said Gary.

"Normal people would consider this a nightmare, not an adventure," Deena said after reading from Coleman's journal.

"You made your choice to stay and now you have to pay the price. The jury let you get away with murder," Deena said. Then she asked for the maximum sentence and said, "Maybe that will knock the smile off your face."

Gary Christian said in his statement, "This community is appalled by these crimes. This community is angered by this true evil."

He also said the crimes have brought "entire churches to its knees."

"You sit there with that disgusted look. I'd rather not be here more than you. I want my daughter back," Gary said. "Lady, you are pure evil."

"Your boyfriend (Letalvis Cobbins) raped Channon. Did jealousy cause you to retaliate?" Gary asked, raising the question whether Coleman caused bruises on Channon.

No statement from Coleman

At the end of the impact statements, Vanessa Coleman declined to speak in her own behalf.

State argues for consecutive sentences

Prosecutor Leland Price argued that Coleman's drug use of marijuana and cocaine starting as a teen suggests criminal behavior and it's an enhancing factor.

Price said the state believes Coleman is a dangerous offender so he asked for her to receive consecutive sentences.

"She (Coleman) never comes clean about what happened to Channon during those 24 hours," Price said.

Defense argues for lighter sentences

Defense attorney Theodore Lavit asked the judge to consider that Coleman didn't cause the victims' injuries, she was held against her will and she cooperated with the investigation as mitigating factors. He added that she had no prior criminal record.

Coleman was at the wrong place at the wrong time, Lavit said. "She trusted the wrong people."

Lavit argued for concurrent sentences for Coleman, rather than consecutive ones, saying she deserves a chance to rejoin her family and be a productive citizen.

Newsom's Disappointment

Mary and Hugh Newsom could not give their victim impact statements on Friday because Coleman was found not guilty on all the charges related to their son's murder. Hugh Newsom called the jury "incompetent."

The Newsom's say Coleman is getting away with Chris' murder and was hoping Coleman would have said something in court.

"I think when they don't get up to say anything I think that means she's guilty otherwise they would get up and say something," said Mary.

Hugh says it would have helped Coleman if she had shown some remorse, something that was missing he says during the sentencing hearing.

Hugh asked everyone to remember and not forget the couple's pain.

Other new trial hearings

The attorneys for two of the other defendants were also granted dates for new trial hearings. Letalvis Cobbins' hearing is set for January, 28, 2011. George Thomas' hearing is set for March 25.


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