The City of Charlotte has agreed to pay $9.5 million to a man who wrongly served nearly 25 years in prison for 1989 rape and assault. It's the city's largest legal settlement ever.
Timothy Scott Bridges was 23 years old when he was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and assault of an 83-year-old Charlotte woman. That conviction was largely based on testimony by FBI-trained investigators that hair samples from the scene matched his.
Bridges always maintained his innocence. In 2015, he was granted a new trial and released from prison. Modern DNA tests ruled him out as the assailant, and last year, all the charges were dropped. One year ago, he was pardoned by Governor Pat McCrory. Bridges has already received $750,000 from a state fund for people wrongly imprisoned.
Now, the city is paying him more than 12 times that.
City attorney Bob Hagemann explained the decision in a statement:
“The City of Charlotte is unaware at this time of any scientifically sound physical evidence connecting Mr. Bridges to the crime, and in consideration of the former governor’s pardon and the possibility of a significantly larger jury verdict, the Charlotte City Council agreed to settle the case with Mr. Bridges’ lawsuit for $9.5 million.
There was no apology, something Bridges’ lawyer, Sonya Pfeiffer, said her client would like to see. But she says the settlement is compensation for everything he missed while behind bars.
“He needs to learn everything from how to use a cell phone to how to work a Facetime message with somebody,” Pfeiffer said. “I mean, he spent 25 years in prison while the world was moving at possibly the fastest pace it's ever moved.”
Bridges’ $25 million lawsuit against the city and four investigators had been scheduled for a March trial. The City Council approved the settlement during a closed session Monday. That came after another DNA test in October again cleared Bridges of the crime.
The money will come from the city’s loss reserve fund, which currently totals about $31 million. The fund pays for settlements like this as well as other unexpected losses.
Until now, the city’s largest legal settlement had been the $2.25 million paid to the family of Jonathan Ferrell, who was killed by a CMPD officer in 2013. In October, the city agreed to a $1.1 million deal with whistleblower and former Charlotte Fire investigator Crystal Eschert.
Meanwhile, CMPD says the original 1989 assault in Bridges’ case remains open. It’s been assigned to the cold case unit.