Prosecutors believe that questions about a nurse’s credentials played “a significant” role in a judge accepting a plea deal and sentencing a repeat sex offender to probation, rather than prison, for raping a woman he picked up while she was socializing in downtown Minneapolis.
It’s the latest fallout among rape cases involving Kristi Jarvis, who was fired from HCMC in May 2019 for allegedly lying about her educational background. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office said it has identified 12 other cases handled by Jarvis that also could be in peril.
In November, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said it has identified 19 cases connected to Jarvis that could lead to charges being dismissed. A spokeswoman for the office said they were unable to say Wednesday whether any of those cases have been affected.
Tyreese W. Harris, 43, of St. Paul, was sentenced Monday by Ramsey County District Judge Judith Tilsen after he pleaded guilty in December to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the woman’s rape in Harris’ home on Nov. 18, 2018.
The plea deal, reached in December, led to Tilsen dismissing two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Harris, convicted in Illinois in 1999 for aggravated sexual assault, was put on probation for 10 years, given credit for the 10 months he was in jail upon his arrest and ordered to register as a lifetime predatory offender.
A sexual assault exam found the victim suffered bruising on her arms, had injuries consistent with having her hair pulled and injuries possibly related to being choked, among other injuries possibly linked to a sexual assault. Also, Harris’ DNA matched evidence collected from the victim at HCMC.
The leading motivation for prosecutors to agree to the terms of the plea deal was questions about Jarvis, who performed the exam on the woman and was poised to be a witness for the prosecution should the case have gone to trial, the County Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
Concerns about the credibility of the nurse who collected vital evidence against Harris during the exam was “a significant factor among others” in the plea agreement taking shape, said Ramsey County Attorney’s Office spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein.
Harris’ attorney, Evan Tsai, pointed to another factor that played into the judge agreeing to probation for his client.
“The sentence he received was a result of [the court’s] finding of a particular amenability towards being rehabilitated,” Tsai said. “Mr. Harris expressed both shame and remorse for the harm he committed to the complaining witness. He is actively taking steps to address his mental and chemical health, all while navigating the obstacles posed by the unfortunate circumstances of his life and his history with the criminal justice system.”
Tilsen’s sentence, which was a downward departure from sentencing guidelines, also imposed a long list of conditions for Harris to follow while on probation. Any violation could lead to a prison sentence of nearly eight years. Those conditions include requiring him to attend a sex-offender program, refrain from alcohol and stay away from sex chat phone lines and websites, dating services, social networks, pornography or “any other sexually explicit, sexually oriented, or sexually stimulating material or enter any strip clubs or adult book stores.”
Prosecutors say the woman woke up in bed next to Harris in his apartment and didn’t recognize her surroundings. Harris told the woman that his friend had dropped her off because the friend was too drunk to drive her home. When the woman asked whether they had sex, he said no.
The woman’s friend told police that they had gone out the day before for drinks. The two were trying to take an Uber home when the friend walked 50 feet away to flag down the lost driver.
When the friend returned, the woman was gone.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482