Jailhouse calls reveal 17-year-old complains about paralyzed victim's GoFundMe page

Brooke Taylor Image
Friday, March 24, 2023
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As a judge's decision to lower a 17-year-old suspect's bond in a Chinatown robbery is attracting criticism, 13 Investigates has obtained jailhouse phone calls that a source close to the investigation confirms the suspect made.

Joseph Harrell was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated robbery after police said he was caught on camera physically assaulting Nhung Truong, who ended up being paralyzed from the attack.

In audio recordings that you'll hear only on ABC13, he's heard talking about maybe getting probation and laughing at the fact someone would think he could spend up to 20 years in prison for his robbery. He's heard making a shocking confession in part of the jail call.

"We were snatching purses," Harrell said. "I hopped out, snatched the purse, the lady ran with the money, I grabbed her, slammed her and she was paralyzed."

ABC13 visited the victim and her children over the weekend, who set up a GoFundMe to help pay medical expenses since she is paralyzed.

"The lady probably wants justice and some more (expletive)," Harrell said. "They'll try to max me out 20 years basically. That (expletive). I ain't going for it. The (expletive) already ran up $230,000 off GoFundMe. (Expletive) better run on with her life."

He continues, "Like, (expletive) you done run up $230,000. Look. They say she ran up $230,000 and she'll be back walking in no less than a year."

According to records, Harrell's bond was initially set at $200,000 but was lowered to $100,000 for the robbery charge. He was charged in a separate robbery case just more than a week later. The bond for that case was also lowered from $40,000 to $30,000.

The case is in the 183rd District Criminal Court presided by Judge Kristin Guiney.

Douglas Griffith, President of Houston Police Officers Union, listened to the recordings and said if Harrell makes bond, he's a threat to the public.

"My concern is for the public," Griffith said. "If this kid gets out of jail, he is going to victimize more individuals. He does not care about anyone but himself, and for the judge to lower his bond baffles my mind. I can't wrap my head around it. This kid is a danger to others and the community and needs to be locked up."

Harrell is the only person that was caught on surveillance video, but he's not the only one facing charges in this case. Zy'Nika Woods, 19, is also charged with robbery, records show.

On Feb. 13, Truong went to a bank in the 9800 block of Blackhawk Boulevard at about 11:30 a.m. to withdraw a large sum of cash for an upcoming trip, police said.

ORGINAL REPORT: Woman followed, robbed in Chinatown after making large cash withdrawal from miles away: HPD

Truong reportedly traveled 24 miles to Chinatown and was followed by Harrell and Woods before being brutally robbed.

She suffered broken ribs, a fractured spine, and is paralyzed from the waist down.

A GoFundMe set up for Troung has raised more than $260,000.

Woods allegedly served as Harrell's getaway driver that followed Truong from a bank to the site of the beating and robbery.

Harrell was already out on bond for a weapons charge when the incident took place and is being charged with another robbery that took place less than two weeks later.

ABC13 spoke to Truong through her daughter last week. "I'm feeling really scared that they are coming after us because of what happened. I need everyone's help to get them the punishment they deserve," Truong said.

SEE RELATED: 'I'm really scared that they're coming after us': Woman paralyzed after mugging speaks to ABC13

Eyewitness News reached out on Thursday night to the Harris County District Attorney's Office about what was said in the recording and whether it agrees with the judge's decision to lower bond. We didn't hear back.

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