published Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Kathleen Mathews sentenced to 30 years and six months in prison

  • photo
    Kathleen Mathews, left, mother of Jesse Mathews, and sister Rachel Mathews, right, are led into the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Chattanooga today. Jesse Mathews is charged with the 2011 killing of Chattanooga Police Dept. Sgt. Tim Chapin. Kathleen Mathews and her husband Ray Mathews, daughter Rachel and her boyfriend James Poteete, are awaiting sentencing in federal court after they pleaded guilty to crimes before and after police say Jesse Mathews killed Chapin.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

The mother of a man charged with killing a Chattanooga police sergeant told a judge that she helped her son out of love but shouldn't be punished for his alleged actions.

"I would do anything for my children because that's what I do," said Kathleen Mathews, 57, mother of Jesse Mathews, who's charged in the April 2, 2011, shooting death of Sgt. Tim Chapin.

"I'm the fool," she said. "I'm the mom."

U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice didn't buy it.

"You made a choice, a conscious choice, between your son and the law," Mattice responded. "Now it sounds like you're not willing to bear the consequences of your actions."

"I am willing to bear the consequences of my actions, but not my son's," she said. "Why are you going to ask me to pay for what my son did?"

"Because I think you set this in motion," Mattice replied.

With 130 police officers and family members gathered in a standing room-only courtroom, the judge then sentenced Mathews -- who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, two counts of accessory after the fact and transferring firearms to a felon -- to 30 years and six months in federal prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff argued that Kathleen Mathews is an "evil manipulator" of other people and hadn't taken responsibility for the effects of her crimes nearly a year after she helped her 26-year-old son flee Colorado while he was a fugitive wanted for three armed robberies.

She hid him, helped him trade stolen weapons, jewelry and cash and advised him on future robberies, including "casing" the pawn shop where police say he shot and killed Chapin during a botched robbery.

"She doesn't get it, judge. She still doesn't get it. She's never going to get it," Neff said.

Her husband, Ray, and daughter Rachel, also accused of helping Jesse before and after he came to Chattanooga, had pleaded guilty to most of the same crimes -- although Rachel did not face a charge of transferring firearms to a felon -- and were sitting in court, awaiting their sentences.

During Kathleen's sentencing, she and Ray sat next to each other at the defense table, her right leg against his left. They have been in jail since being arrested on April 8, 2011, seeing each other only during court hearings. On Monday, as the proceedings dragged on, they interlocked their touching legs.

Moments after Kathleen's sentencing, Ray and Rachel were led from the courtroom for a brief break. As he shuffled out the side door, Ray, 50, said in a low, sarcastic tone, "They should just take her out and shoot her; it'd be a lot easier."

'truly evil people'

Police say Kathleen, Ray and Rachel Mathews and Rachel's boyfriend James Poteete helped Jesse flee Colorado and ultimately land in Chattanooga, where he armed himself before the reportedly botched robbery of the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road.

During the incident, Jesse shot and killed Chapin when the sergeant tried to stop him, according to court testimony.

Following the five-hour hearing Monday, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian told reporters that the defendants got the time they deserved and Kathleen's court statements verified that she "had no remorse."

"Deep down we feel, if the federal system was created for any case, it was created for these cases," Killian said.

After the hearing, Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd described how the sentencing affects the Chapin family and his department.

"I think we actually saw some truly evil people today," Dodd said. "I think we are one step closer to some closure, not only for the family, but for the police department."

Jesse Mathews faces the death penalty in a state court trial scheduled for January 2013. His next court date is set for March 12.

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    Ray Mathews, right, was sentenced to 20 years and 10 months for his involvement in transporting and harboring his son Jesse Mathews after his escape from a Colorado halfway house, prior to allegedly shooting and killing Sgt. Tim Chapin on April 2, 2011. Kathleen Mathews, Jesse's mother, was sentencecd to 30 years and six months.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

father and daughter

After returning from a lunch break, Ray Mathews faced Mattice. He had pleaded guilty to the same charges as his wife, but his outcome was different.

Prosecutors and his attorney, Lee Ortwein, agreed that Ray had taken responsibility for his part in his son's alleged crimes. Ortwein said Ray had told him that, "if he could have died in Sgt. Chapin's place, he would have gladly done so."

The father made no statement to the judge or crowd, and Mattice sentenced him to 20 years and 10 months in prison.

His daughter's future came next. Her attorney, Aubrey Harper, argued that she had been "brainwashed" by her mother and had a chance, at age 21, to change her life.

But prosecutors didn't see it that way.

"I think she has the same line of thinking as Kathleen and Jesse," Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Poole told Mattice.

"That's a scary thought," the judge replied. "I am very disturbed about the direction her life has taken and her ability to turn it around."

Rachel addressed the crowd, apologizing to Chapin's family, police officers and the Chattanooga community. She told Mattice she accepted whatever punishment he gave her and asked only that she be placed in a prison near her other family members.

He said that was unlikely. Prosecutors had earlier requested that Kathleen, Ray and Rachel be imprisoned as far apart as possible.

Mattice then sentenced Rachel to 11 years and three months in prison.

While speaking to the crowd, Rachel turned to Poteete and told him she loved him and "would have married him." Marshals then led her out of the courtroom.

Poteete, 26, has been free awaiting sentencing since his arrest days after Chapin's shooting. Like Rachel, he faced all the same charges as Kathleen and Ray except for transferring weapons to a felon.

Court documents show that he drove Jesse and Rachel from Nashville to Asheville, N.C., and later disposed of firearms that Jesse is accused of stealing in Colorado. In court Monday, he apologized for his involvement, and prosecutors agreed that he should receive some benefit because of his cooperation in the case.

Mattice sentenced him to six years and seven months. He has one month before he must begin serving his time.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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