Texas woman lobs new allegations in wake of report on NOPD sex crime detectives _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN SIMERMAN -- Attorney Gloria Allred, right, walks into the New Orleans Police 2nd District Station with a Texas couple who accuse the NOPD of dismissing the woman's claim of being raped by a hotel security guard during Mardi Gras this year.

She was bruised all over, the woman said. Her blood had soaked into the hotel mattress.

But a week after the Texas woman reported that she was raped on Mardi Gras night and underwent a hospital exam, a New Orleans Police Department detective told her he was dropping the case. He had concluded the sex was consensual after speaking with the suspect, a security guard in the hotel where she and her husband had stayed this year for the Carnival holiday.

A police spokesman confirmed that the detective was one of the five Special Victims Section detectives who were targeted in a blistering report last week from Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s office that detailed an astonishing rate of failures to document investigations in sexual assault cases assigned to the five detectives.

The woman and her husband, a physician, appeared Friday afternoon with celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred in front of the 2nd District police station, where they were headed into a meeting with Cmdr. Paul Noel, who has been tapped by NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison to lead a task force that will revisit hundreds of alleged sex crimes with no documented investigations.

Neither the woman nor her husband identified themselves by name.

The woman, who is 39, said she was traumatized by the dismissive police response.

“I felt intimidated because whenever I tried to call the detective, his response made me feel that my case did not matter. I felt like I was bothering him. I felt that he was rude and hostile. I was devastated when he said that the rape was consensual,” she said. “When I found out that the detective was one of the five that was involved in hundreds of other cases that were mishandled, I was sick to my stomach.”

Allred skirted a question about whether the couple plans to sue the Police Department, saying only that they want to have the case properly investigated. She declined to name the security guard or the scene of the alleged crime, describing it only as “a well-known hotel.”

“What has happened in New Orleans is a national scandal, and it is deserving of scrutiny at the highest level,” Allred said. “If they were counting on the silence of victims, they miscalculated.”

Noel oversaw the sex crimes unit for eight months in 2010 and 2011. He was credited with several reforms, including the processing of 800 rape exam kits that had sat untested on evidence room shelves. He said Friday that the new task force would review the latest allegation, though it falls outside the 271 cases for which Quatrevaux’s office found no supplemental police reports from 2011 to 2013.

“I can guarantee that our team is going to fully investigate every one of these cases,” Noel said.

The detective who investigated the woman’s case was Vernon Haynes, the most veteran of the Special Victims Unit detectives whose work has come under fire. He was transferred from the Sex Crimes Unit after 13 years on Nov. 11, the day before Quatrevaux released his report, according to the NOPD.

The investigation found that Haynes failed to write up any investigative reports in 29 of 105 cases assigned to him over three years. He lobbed another 150 sexual assault reports into the “miscellaneous” bin, leaving no paper trail.

The four other detectives whom Quatrevaux’s office investigated all logged worse rates over that time.

The report also found three incidents in which Haynes failed to document any follow-up investigation in cases where the State Police DNA laboratory turned up evidence.

Overall, the report found that the five detectives — Haynes, Merrell Merricks, Damita Williams, Derrick Williams and Child Abuse Unit detective Akron Davis — had set aside nearly two-thirds of the combined 1,290 cases assigned to them, deeming them “miscellaneous.” They also failed to document any follow-up investigation at all into 60 percent of the 450 cases where they had jotted down cursory initial reports or notes, the report found.

On Tuesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu pledged a complete overhaul of the sex crimes unit, calling the report’s findings “a disgrace.”

The unidentified woman’s allegations seem to jibe with both Quatrevaux’s report and a 2011 U.S. Justice Department report on the NOPD that found sex crimes detectives routinely dismissed victims’ claims or asked them accusatory questions.

In a news release late Friday, Allred said Noel assured them at Friday’s meeting that the department would reinvestigate the case. She also said the couple were told that the woman’s rape exam kit had never been submitted for DNA analysis.

“It seemed to us that this case was being taken seriously, and we were assured that they want to get it right,” Allred said in the statement.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.