Activists demand Harris County judge reinstate higher bond for teen who allegedly left woman paralyzed
HOUSTON - Community members are urging a Harris County Judge to reinstate a higher bond for the jugging suspect accused of robbing and paralyzing a woman in February.
Last week, a judge reduced 17-year-old Joseph Harrell’s bond in half.
Records show Harrell's bond was reduced from $200,000 to $100,000 for a charge of aggravated robbery with serious bodily injury. His bond was also reduced from $40,000 to $30,000 for a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in an unrelated case, according to court records.
On Feb. 13, Harrell was caught on surveillance video assaulting Nhung Truong, 44, during a robbery on the 9800 block of Bellaire Blvd. around 11:30 a.m. The attack left Truong paralyzed from the waist down.
PREVIOUS STORY: Judge lowers bond for Houston teen accused of paralyzing woman during jugging robbery
Investigators say Truong had withdrawn money from the Bank of America on Blackhawk Blvd near the Beltway and was followed by the suspect nearly 24 miles away to the shopping center.
Harrell is one of two suspects charged in the aggravated robbery. Zy'Nika Ayesha Woods, 19, is also charged with aggravated robbery with serious bodily injury. Her bond is set at $50,000.
Through a translator, Truong said she is exhausted and overwhelmed. Truong said her family has been worried and concerned for their safety, as well as the public's safety over Harrell's bond reduction.
Since the attack, Truong has had no feeling in her legs and is unable to use the bathroom by herself.
Activists stood in front of the Harris County Criminal Courthouse on Wednesday to demand that Judge Kristin Guiney of the 183rd district court reinstate a higher bond for Harrell.
BACKGROUND: Woman left paralyzed after robber body slammed her to the ground, suspect still wanted
"If he gets out, we will not feel safe as citizens but also, police officers. What happens if he commits another crime? And we’re here talking and saying, ‘We told you so. He’s out again,'" said Hai Bui, founder of We the People Organize.
"What was she thinking? This individual has a previous weapons offense, even before he assaulted this lady, and then has a subsequent offense even after he assaulted this lady. The judges like this are letting them out, it’s like a revolving door. They just go in, go outside and come out the other. And that’s gotta be stopped," said a former LULAC director.
The demands come days after the Houston Police Officers Union said jailhouse calls from Harrell were leaked.
"There were some recorded phone calls from the defendant to his family members regarding the GoFundMe that was established by the victim. He was more concerned about the fact that the amount of money that was generated for her GoFundMe. I think that speaks to the state of mind of him being selfish and more concerned about his own affairs," said Ken Nealy, the First Vice President of the Houston Police Officers Union.
Activists say the leaked calls show that Harrell felt no remorse for his actions or the victim. They’re now concerned for the public’s safety if he does post bond.
"He basically admitted the crime on the audio. It’s there. It’s pretty much a shut case," Bui said.
RELATED: Houston woman body slammed to the ground during jugging robbery
"Today I asked a couple of my Vietnamese friends and family to come out; they’re scared. They said Hai, we’re afraid of retaliation," Bui continued.
"We’re here to support the immigrant community. We’re here to denounce judges who reduce bail on folks who already have committed a felony or an assault. There is legislature right now in the state that if someone commits a felony or a crime with a weapon, it’s mandatory 10-year prison sentence," said Dr. Sergio Lira with LULAC.
A spokesperson with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office tells FOX 26 that prosecutors are opposed to Harrell’s bond reduction.
Several calls to representatives of the 183rd District Court Judge Kristin Guiney for comment went unanswered Wednesday.
Law enforcement experts say the leaked tapes will likely be used in the punishment phase, not during the trial. It's unclear how the tapes were leaked.