‘They did not receive the justice that they deserved’
Nashville’s Sexual Assault Center criticizes delay of the arrest of man accused of sex crimes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Lorraine McGuire was going into a meeting last week when she learned of a WSMV4 Investigation, showing how 25 women filed police reports over a four-year period before the man they accused of sex crimes was arrested.
“I had to stop and listen to the whole thing, because it almost sounded impossible,” said McGuire, the Vice President of Community Relations and Development at the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville.
McGuire watched as many of the victims voiced frustration about how it long it took for their assailant, Tarek Mentouri, to be arrested.
Our reporting also revealed the frustration from the district attorney’s office about the speed of the investigation.
Because so much time had passed since the first victims filed their reports, one of which had her body swabbed for DNA, the statute of limitations ran out, and there was no prosecution on their cases.
“The next time you hear about someone being assaulted, and you say, well, why didn’t they tell someone sooner? Why didn’t they report this earlier? I want you to look at this situation - that’s why. This is why people don’t report,” said Jennifer, a woman who filed a police report about her assault.
“They did not receive the justice that they deserved,” McGuire said.
In our investigation, the current supervisor of Metro Nashville Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit, Inspector Rita Baker, acknowledged it took too long to arrest Mentouri.
Baker began supervising the unit after Mentouri’s case was prosecuted.
Metro Nashville Police acknowledge that the lead detective in the case was overworked and assigned to the midnight shift, making communication with victims difficult.
“There’s no excuse, there’s never an excuse, but there are reasons why it may have delayed,” Baker said.
But McGuire says in the wake of the revelations about the Mentouri investigation, she had lingering concerns about how sex crimes victims continue to be treated.
McGuire said according to their records, 833 victims have had rape kits performed at the center, and in only six of those cases, has someone from their office been subpoenaed to testify.
McGuire also believes there has only been six prosecutions related to those kits.
“Since 2018, that is what we’ve seen,” McGuire said.
Assistant District Attorney Kate Melby, who was hired specifically to handle sex crimes and human trafficking cases in March, believes the prosecution cases are much higher than what the center realizes because many cases result in plea deals.
She was also not on the prosecution team when the Mentouri case was being investigated.
“I know you’ve inherited these problems, so what do you do?” asked WSMV4 Investigates.
“I think having a dedicated prosecutor that looks at these cases vertically and have a holistic approach, so I can get on these cases faster, has helped that,” Melby said.
Melby also said since taking the position she has worked to unite sex crimes detectives, nurses at hospitals dealing with sex assaults, and the Sexual Assault Center.
She said her approach since March to sex crimes is simple. “To treat all of these as a homicides. These are violent crimes, and they need to be treated as violent crimes,” Melby said.
McGuire also praised Melby, saying since she took over in March she has noticed a renewed effort to streamline sexual assault cases.
But McGuire said the Mentouri investigation reveals that needs to be done.
“This story is a great reminder that we still have a whole lot more work to do,” McGuire said.
It’s why McGuire is reaching out to Mentouri’s victims, hoping to work with them on proposed legislation to extend the length of time a sex crimes victim can sue their assailant in civil court.
Currently, a victim only has a year to sue civilly, and McGuire would like to see that extended to either the length of time it takes for the case to go through criminal court, or a year after that process is concluded.
McGuire said currently two of Mentouri’s victims have agreed to take part in the process.
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