Charges: Man assaulted patient at Regions Hospital

February 15, 2019 06:48 PM

A St. Paul man has been charged after authorities say he sexually assaulted a vulnerable adult at Regions Hospital, according to court records. 

A criminal complaint states Mario Lereko Blackwell faces one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. 

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The complaint said after being discharged from Regions Hospital, a vulnerable woman told authorities she had been assaulted by Blackwell prior to her release. 

The victim told police that Blackwell took her into a room and assaulted her, according to the complaint. 

The complaint said Blackwell denied having sex with the victim but said he had touched her in a sexual manner. 

Regions issued a statement about the incident Friday, saying, "We were saddened to learn about these allegations. Patient safety is our top priority," the statement read. "We're continuing to work to fully understand what happened and we're cooperating with the St. Paul Police Department's investigation."

Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Health - Minnesota, said any time a vulnerable adult is in a hospital that extra precautions are needed. 

According to court records, Blackwell has a prior conviction of child abuse out of Oklahoma.

During an interview, Abderholden responded to questions as to whether more care needs to be taken when a person with a previous sexual assault charge seeks mental health treatment. 

"One issue might be that - how would someone necessarily know? We don't do background checks when people come into an in-patient unit. We do background checks on employees and things like that, but it's not something that would be the first thing that would come to your mind to do a background check on every patient coming into an in-patient psychiatric unit," Abderholden said. "We wouldn't discriminate, right, because rapists could have heart disease, rapists could have cancer treatment. It could be any health care condition. And so, if you decided that you needed to protect everyone in a hospital then you would need to do a background check on everyone. You just can't single out someone who has a mental illness because that's not a predisposition to becoming a rapist."

Abderholden said an incident like the one alleged in the criminal complaint should not deter people from seeking treatment. 

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Brandi Powell

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