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Judge Rachel Bell returns cases to criminal courts after NewsChannel 5 investigation

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Posted at 6:08 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 14:06:27-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Davidson County General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell is responding to a NewsChannel 5 investigation involving the C.A.R.E. Court that she founded.

In a written statement, Bell said she is transferring the cases of four men charged in connection with a brutal beating last year back to the criminal courts for prosecution.

NewsChannel 5's investigation questioned why the cases had been moved to the C.A.R.E. Court, which is for non-violent offenders.

In her statement, Judge Bell said that after hearing from the victim's mother in our report, she decided to move the cases out of her court.

She said it was another judge who transferred them to the C.A.R.E. Court in the first place.

Last May, witnesses called 911 to report a brutal beating in a motel parking lot off Trinity Lane.

"They're beating him. They're beating someone to death," Judith Edwards told dispatchers.

Edwards works at the motel and saw it all.

"I was screaming. I'm calling the police telling them, they are killing this kid. They are going to kill him," Edwards said.

A 17-year-old juvenile, whose face we blurred, was driven to the parking lot by his cousin.

After he got out of the car, an older man started punching him.

At least three others joined the attack which lasted nearly seven minutes.

As we reported, the four men were arrested and charged with armed robbery, which is a felony, because they had guns and took items from the teen.

But their cases were suddenly transferred out of criminal court — to a court set up by Judge Bell for non-violent, misdemeanor offenders.

It allows them to avoid jail time and potentially wipe the charges off their records.

In her statement, Judge Bell said she had nothing to do with the transfer, "Judge Gayle Robinson transferred these cases to the C.A.R.E. Diversionary Court."

But courtroom audio released to us last week by Judge Robinson shows the transfer was not his idea.

You hear a prosecutor from District Attorney Glenn Funk's office tell Judge Robinson the state wanted to reduce the charges.

"All four of them were charged with aggravated robbery. The state is amending that down to a robbery and sending all the cases to C.A.R.E. Court." the prosecutor said.

Judge Robinson seemed surprised at the request.

"We're doing what?" Judge Robinson asked.

"Judge Bell's C.A.R.E. Court," the prosecutor responded.

The recording confirms what Judge Robinson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates last week, that he merely signed off on the transfer because that was how the State wanted to handle the cases.

Notes on court records indicated the "victim needs to agree" to the reduced charges and claim the prosecutor "spoke to the victim's mother."

But Anna Jimenez told us she never agreed to lower the charges.

"They never asked me about it none of the way. They called me and told me they had changed the charges to something else," Jimenez said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "And if they had asked you what would you have said?"

"No," Jimenez responded.

Judge Bell's statement said "Considering Ms. Jimenez statements made today during the NewsChannel 5 report, the cases will be transferred back to Judge Gayle Robinson for prosecution."

She said all C.A.R.E. Court cases require the victims to agree, and now she knows the victim does not agree.

As we reported, the father of one of the men charged in the case donated $500 to Judge Bell's re-election campaign while his son was in Judge Bell's program.

Judge Bell has repeatedly highlighted the C.A.R.E. Court in her re-election campaign.

But our investigation discovered it has served only 14 people — including the four men who were just transferred out.

Judge Bell received a $200,000 federal grant back in 2018 to start the court.

But that money has been spent and now Metro taxpayers are helping to fund the court.

Jimenez claimed Judge Bell knew she was opposed to lowering the charges against the men who attacked her son.

Judge Bell insisted the mom is not telling the truth.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked for the audio recordings from Judge Bell's courtroom, but unlike Judge Robinson, she has so far not agreed to release them.

Here is the full statement from Judge Bell:

"Judge Gale Robinson transferred these cases to the C.A.R.E. Diversionary Court without objection from the victim. Anytime the victim wants the case to be removed the DA Victim Witness Coordinator should be notified. This hasn’t happened. Considering, Ms. Jimenez statements made today during, the News Channel 5 report the cases will be transferred back to Judge Gale Robinson for prosecution. "