published Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

2 accused in police slaying case to plead guilty

  • photo
    Rachel Mathews’ boyfriend, James Poteete, 26.

A man and woman accused of aiding a man facing trial in the slaying of a Chattanooga police officer are expected to plead guilty in federal court today.

Rachel Mathews, 21, and James Poteete, 26, are scheduled to appear before a magistrate in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, according to court dockets.

Federal prosecutors confirmed Tuesday the two have agreed to a plea deal.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chris Poole and Steve Neff declined to comment about the pending case.

Mathews is the sister of Jesse Mathews, the 26-year-old who faces felony murder charges, accused of shooting Sgt. Tim Chapin during a botched robbery on Brainerd Road on April 2.

Poteete was Rachel Mathews' boyfriend at the time of her arrest in April.

Mathews and Poteete each face 10 federal charges, including accessory after the fact, withholding information on a crime, and tampering with a witness, victim or informant.

The charge of tampering with a witness has the harshest possible penalty -- a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, according to federal law.

Jesse Mathews has been indicted by the Hamilton County grand jury on one count of felony murder, one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of aggravated robbery. He is scheduled to appear before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman on Aug. 16.

According to court records, Jesse Mathews wired his sister money in February after escaping a community corrections program in Colorado and robbing a pharmacy in Colorado Springs.

Rachel Mathews bought a plane ticket to Colorado, records show, and the siblings then traveled to Nashville by bus under false names.

Poteete picked the two up in Nashville and drove them to Asheville, N.C., where they met up with Jesse and Rachel's parents, Ray and Kathleen Mathews, according to affidavits. Ray, 50, and Kathleen Mathews, 57, are also facing extensive federal charges in relation to the case, including conspiracy and obstruction of justice, being accessories after the fact and related firearms charges.

Soon after the family met up in Asheville, Jesse Mathews moved with his parents to Chattanooga.

Rachel Mathews has been appointed attorney Aubrey Harper, while Poteete will be represented by Gene Shiles.

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