Former assistant principal facing sex charges appearing in court

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – A 34-year-old former Pelham High School assistant principal who has pleaded not guilty to sex charges involving a student will appear in court in December after her original November court date was continued.

Bell

Bell

Catherine Bell, who lists an address on Willow Drive in Hueytown and previously listed an address in Alabaster, was arrested by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 12, 2013, and charged with three counts of a school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19. She was released from the Shelby County Jail on bonds totaling $120,000 the same day she was arrested.

Bell originally was scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 3 for a preliminary hearing, but her court date was continued until Dec. 1 at 8:30 a.m. at the Shelby County Courthouse.

Bell was charged with the crimes after turning herself in to authorities at about 2:45 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2013.

According to her arrest warrants, Bell allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with an underage male student three times between December 2012 and November 2013. The incidents happened at an Alabaster residence, a Birmingham residence and in a vehicle off U.S. 280, according to the warrants.

She was ordered in her arrest warrant to not have contact with the victim.

Bell’s arrest came after a Shelby County Sheriff’s Office investigation, during which Bell was placed on administrative leave before she resigned from her position in November 2013.

In a July motion to dismiss the charges, Bell’s attorney, Jonathan Lyerly, claimed the “alleged victim was not a student during this entire time,” and said the charges should not be upheld.

Lyerly claimed the indictments against Bell violate the U.S. and Alabama constitutions, Bell’s 14th Amendment rights, her “right to submissive due process under federal and state law” and claimed the indictments were “unconstitutionally vague, uncertain and impermissibly broad.”

According to Alabama law, Bell’s charges are Class B felonies. If convicted of the crimes, Bell could face up to 20 years in prison per charge.