Woman: Rape at Mardi Gras ignored by detectives

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 21, 2014 7:34 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A woman says she was raped in New Orleans during Mardi Gras festivities in a case among scores that the city's police department failed to properly investigate.

The department is reeling from a city inspector general's report that found five detectives mishandled more than 1,000 sex crimes and child abuse cases between 2011 and 2013.

Standing in front of a police station on Friday, the woman, accompanied by her husband and high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred, described being raped by a security guard at a New Orleans hotel this year. She said one of the five detectives now under investigation closed her case after determining the sex was consensual.

Though the woman, who Allred said is from Texas, made her allegations before reporters, neither she nor or her lawyer revealed her name. The Associated Press does not generally identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

The woman described being raped by the security guard.

"There was blood in the room and I had bruises all over. I felt traumatized," said the woman, who was 39 at the time. She read from a statement with tears in her eyes.

She described the detective who closed her case as "rude and hostile" and then, when she found out he was one of those under investigation, she said she felt "sick to my stomach."

Her allegations took place outside the period under review by the inspector general's office. But police officials confirmed that the case was handled by one of the detectives under investigation, whom they identified as Vernon Haynes. Attempts to reach Haynes were unsuccessful.

Police Cmdr. Paul Noel, who is overseeing a team assigned to reopen cases handled by the five detectives, said the allegations made by the Texas woman would be examined.

"This case is very important, but every case we are going to look at is very important," Noel said. "I can guarantee that our team is going to thoroughly investigate every case it has been assigned to look at."

After meeting with police and prosecutors on Friday, Allred said police confirmed for her that her client's rape kit, the forensics basis for an investigation, had never been analyzed. She said police promised to do so now.

"We would like to have the perpetrator brought to justice," Allred said. "It's shocking, just shocking."

New Orleans is just the latest police force to come under fire for failing to investigate sexual assaults thoroughly, often classifying them as miscellaneous or unfounded cases not worth investigating. Besides New Orleans, police departments in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., also have come under fire in recent years for similar patterns.

"This is a national issue, this is not just reflective of New Orleans," said Mary Claire Landry, executive director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center, an advocacy group that helps victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

Among the inspector general report's findings into the New Orleans police, one detective was cited for stating a belief that simple rape should not be considered a crime and another detective handling child abuse failed to investigate a case involving a 3-year-old brought to an emergency room due to an alleged sexual assault, closing the case without any charges even though the child had a sexually transmitted disease.

All of the detectives have since been reassigned to desk duty pending an investigation.