Statute of limitations blocks principal's sex crime trial; job future uncertain

Statute of limitations blocks principal's sex crime trial; job future uncertain

RIPLEY, TN (WMC) - Despite evidence corroborating allegations of sexual misconduct against a Mid-South high school principal, no charges will be filed in the case.

District Attorney Mike Dunavant announced his office could not proceed with prosecution against Ripley High School Principal Joe Bridges for alleged sexual misconduct with minor students, because the statute of limitations on the crimes has passed.

"With regard to the allegations made by the complainant in this investigation, there was sufficient evidence to confirm and corroborate the allegations of unlawful sexual contact during the approximate time period of 2003-2005, while Bridges was in his position of authority as a teacher, coach, or principal at Ripley High School. However, while there would have been a viable case for criminal prosecution against Bridges, this office does not have the ability to go forward with a prosecution, due to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations for the various possible sexual felonies that might have been …this office is now time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations from initiating a prosecution for any possible criminal charge related to these allegations."

There were mixed emotions in Ripley after word began to spread about the results of the TBI investigation findings against the principal. Parents were hostile when asked to speak about it, but students freely spoke. Some students expressed their disgust and others wanted to offer forgiveness.

"Honestly, it's very shocking that they had a man like that as their principal," said student Maki Jolla.

A former student told investigators Bridges had sexual contact with her starting when she was 16 years old and lasting until she graduated high school, more than a decade ago. Bridges denied the allegations.

Lauderdale County Schools Superintendent received a certified letter from the former student on November 11, 2015. The letter contained information about the sexual misconduct. The superintendent sent a report to the district attorney's office on November 17 with a report of the allegations.

Bridges was placed on administrative leave as RHS principal pending the criminal investigation. According to Lauderdale County Schools superintendent, Bridges' employment status with the school system has not changed and he is still suspended without pay. They are in the "exploratory stage" and will be speaking to the district attorney's office regarding Bridges' future with the school system.

"I think that's nasty and weird. That's just sick," said Tyler Duvall, a former student.

Tyrese Johnson believes Bridges should be gone from the school system and not be rehired.

"I think they shouldn't rehire him. It's just wrong to have sex with a student," said Johnson.

But not every student agrees with Johnson.

"I believe he should come back and be principal because everybody deserves a second chance," said Juadareon Glass.

Bridges did not respond to our requests for a comment. However, he has said in the past he is innocent of the allegations.

The Lauderdale County School Superintendent said the district is very concerned about the results of the investigation and a decision will be made in the best interest of the school and the community.

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