Sex charges dropped against former PHS assistant principal

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – Several sex charges have been dropped against a former Pelham High School assistant principal after the individual who made allegations against her recanted his statements, according to court documents.

Bell

Bell

On Dec. 8, Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Dan Reeves agreed to dismiss three felony counts of a school employee engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student under the age of 19 and one misdemeanor count of a school employee having sexual contact with a student against Hueytown resident Catherine Bell. Bell formerly listed an Alabaster address, and was serving as an assistant principal at Pelham High School at the time of her arrest.

According to the order dismissing the charges, “The victim in the above matter has hereby recanted and is no longer cooperating with the prosecution of these cases.”

In exchange for the charges being dropped, Bell agreed to a “full, complete and absolute release” against the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, the Pelham Police Department and the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office. The dismissal was the result of an agreement between the prosecution and defense.

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

In a Dec. 11 phone interview, Bell’s attorney, Rick Lyerly, said the alleged incidents never happened, and praised the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office for agreeing to drop the charges.

“We say that these cases were generated by the rumor mill and snowballed from there,” Lyerly said. “The events never occurred. Dropping the charges was the correct thing to do.

“These cases were based on relatively new statues, and I think they make it easier to falsely accuse someone,” Lyerly added. “Now, Mrs. Bell will attempt to return to a normal life.”

Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee said the statute Bell was charged under is a “good statute,” and encouraged victims of inappropriate behavior in schools to always notify authorities.

“In this situation, we were not able to make the case,” Lee said. “We still understand that inappropriate situations do happen in schools, and we will continue to prosecute them.”