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Victim's mother questions Judge Rachel Bell's CARE Court

Ben Hall Care Court 3.jpg
Posted at 4:49 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 14:20:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Her son was violently attacked by four men in a motel parking lot.

Now the mother, Anna Jimenez, is raising concerns about a program she says is letting his attackers off the hook.

The restorative justice program was started three years ago by General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell using $200,000 in federal grant money.

But in that time, it has only served 14 people including the four men involved in the motel parking lot attack.

The brutal beating in May of last year was caught on video.

"They're trying to kill someone out in front of the f*****g motel," said Judith Edwards when she called 911.

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

Another witness at the motel off Trinity Lane also called 911.

"Oh my goodness. They just kicked him again, please hurry," they said.

The victim, a 17-year-old juvenile, was driven to the motel by his cousin.

Moments after he got out of the car, a much older man started punching him and at least three others joined in the attack.

"And I was screaming,' I'm calling the police' telling them 'they are killing this kid,'" said Judith Edwards.

The attack went on for nearly 7 minutes.

Video shows the juvenile get repeatedly punched, kicked and even slammed to the pavement several times.

An arrest warrant indicated the victim told police "multiple people had drawn guns out."

Anna Jimenez said her son was bloodied and bruised, but the mental impact has been the worst.

"His head was so big, you couldn't even tell it was my son," Jimenez said.

"He ain't been the same since. All he talks about is killing himself or hurting himself," Jimenez said.

Police arrested the victim's cousin Donta Holt and three other men, Kenneth Smotherman, Ched Smotherman and Corey Mosley.

All four were charged with aggravated robbery, which is a felony, because they took two cell phones and money from the victim.

But despite the overwhelming video evidence, prosecutors in the Davidson County District Attorney's office decided to reduce the charges against the men to robbery so the men would be eligible for a program for non-violent, misdemeanor offenders.

It allowed them to be transferred to the CARE Court founded by General sessions judge Rachel Bell.

In the court, they can avoid jail time and potentially have the charges removed from their records.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Anna Jimenez, "Was justice done here?"

She responded, "No, it was not done. No. They got out free, and my son is up in the hospital suffering."

Handwritten notes on CARE Court records indicate that the "victim needs to agree" to the reduced charges and also state the prosecutor "spoke with the victim's mother," but Jimenez told NewsChannel 5 Investigates she never agreed.

"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.

But a statement from District Attorney Glenn Funk's office insists that prosecutor's "did obtain the victim's mother's approval."

It said the case remains open and the mom could still "request" the case be sent back to criminal court.

"I would never drop no charges against somebody that hurt my child. Never," Jimenez said.

District Attorney Glenn Funk appeared in a FaceBook live video with Judge Bell in which he acknowledged some offenders should not be eligible for programs like the CARE Court.

"Now there are people who are dangerous, there are people who commit murders, there are people who commit rapes. There are people running around sticking guns in people's faces and robbing them of their property and threatening their lives," Funk said.

But in this case Funk's office told us "Armed robbery was not the appropriate charge" because prosecutors received information that the allegations "regarding weapons were not factually accurate."

However, a review of the video shows the men had guns.

It shows one man putting his gun on the ground before beating the victim.

Witnesses said the attackers pointed their guns during the beating.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Did they have guns? Did you see guns?"

Judith Edwards responded, "The one guy had a gun, that was standing over there, yes."

Jiminez said CARE Court Judge Rachel Bell threatened to hold her in contempt of court when she objected.

She does not believe Judge Bell ever saw the video of her son's beating and was surprised when Judge Bell told her that her son and his attackers need to just shake hands and make up.

She claims the judge also said she knew the people involved and they come from good families.

"She had dinner with them. They is a nice family. She goes over to their house. They treat people nice," Jimenez said.

During the time that defendant Corey Moseley was in the CARE Court program, his father made a $500 donation to Bell's re-election campaign.

CARE Court was founded by Judge Bell in 2018, when she received a $200,000 federal grant from the Department of Justice that went through the Center for Court Innovation, based in New York.

In her grant application, Bell wrote the program would be an alternative to putting people in jail that would focus on offenders from the 37208 zip code in North Nashville which has been reported as being the zip code with the highest arrest rate in the country.

After spending the $200,000, the program had only served one participant — a Donelson woman who was accused multiple times of huffing chemicals.

She later dropped out of the program.

In all, only 14 people have ever made it into the CARE Court program, now in its fourth year.

And just one of them lived in the targeted 37208 zip code in North Nashville.

In a final report, Judge Bell blamed the slow start on COVID-19, which closed courts.

Jiminez still cannot understand how the men who attacked her son were among the few who got into this little-used program.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Should they have ever been in that program?"

Jimenez responded, "No. No, they should not be in that program at all."

"Me and my son got to go home and live with that trauma he got on his head, the rest of his life. She said 'Well he'll be alright.' No he won't," Jimenez said.

Judge Bell declined an interview but said in a statement "The CARE Diversionary Court is in pilot stages and is for all Davidson County residents."

She said she "prioritized" a separate housing court during COVID and that is why after spending more than $200,000 the CARE Court has seen just 14 people.

Here is Judge Bell's full statement:


“During the COVID-19 pandemic we prioritized Nashville’s Homelessness Crisis with the L.E.G.A.C.Y. Housing Resource Diversionary Court to assist landlords in receiving funds for back pay of rent and keep families with a roof over their heads. The 2018 reimbursement grant expenses were pre-approved, reviewed and properly administered by the TN Supreme Court, Administrative Office of Courts. The C.A.R.E. Diversionary Court is in pilot stages and is for all Davidson County residents. Participants are only transferred by agreement by the originating judge, victim, DA and the Criminal Defense Attorney. All current C.A.R.E. cases are OPEN pending final outcome and the victim at any time may prosecute.”

Here are the responses from District Attorney Glenn Funk's Office: