Judge denies former PHS administrator’s request to clear her record

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – A Shelby County Circuit Court Judge has denied a former Pelham High School assistant principal’s request to have her record cleared of multiple sex charges dismissed against her in December 2014.

Bell

Bell

Attorneys for Hueytown resident Catherine Bell had filed motions for expungement in Shelby County Circuit Court on April 30 asking Judge Dan Reeves to clear Bell’s record of the charges.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office arrested Bell, who was an Alabaster resident and an assistant principal at Pelham High School at the time, on Dec. 12, 2013, and charged her with 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.

All charges were dropped against Bell in December 2014 after the alleged victim “recanted and is no longer cooperating with the prosecution of these cases,” according to the court order dismissing the charges against Bell.

According to Bell’s expungement petition, “All four cases were dismissed as the alleged victim acknowledged the events alleged never occurred.” The petition also sought to have Bell’s professional certificates returned, and claimed she was “entitled to … reinstatement in her former position or an equivalent position and back pay.”

Reeves denied Bell’s petition for expungement on June 17, writing “the court has no authority to grant a petition for expungement record where the charge is excluded by the provisions” of the Alabama Code.

Reeves’ decision came about two weeks after Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Gregg Lowrey objected to the expungement of Bell’s record, claiming her charges qualified as “violent felonies” because they involved “a non-consensual sex offense” and were “particularly reprehensible.”

Crimes defined as violent felonies in the Alabama Code are not eligible for expungement.

Reeves’ denial of the expungement petition came over the protests of Bell’s attorneys, who claimed Bell “was wrongfully accused of a crime,” and claimed her charges should not be classified as violent felonies.

Had the charges been expunged against Bell, all records tied to the four charges would have been removed from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, Shelby County Circuit Court, Shelby County District Court, the Alabama Department of Education, the Shelby County Board of Education, Pelham High School, Shelby County Juvenile Court, the Shelby County Department of Human Resources, the Pelham Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.