By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Criminal embezzlement charges against state Rep. Brian Aldridge, R-Tupelo, are being dropped because the key witness in the case died earlier this year, Attorney General Jim Hood said Thursday.
Hood said the testimony of Florence Aldridge, Aldridge’s aunt, would have been needed in the trial. She died in April.
Brian Aldridge and his parents, Janice and Louis Aldridge, were indicted in June 2013 on charges of embezzling funds from her while Louis Aldridge had power of attorney over her estate when she was ill.
The charges stemmed from an earlier civil lawsuit. Hood said the charges would not be dropped against Janice and Louis Aldridge because testimony from the civil trial can be used in the criminal trial.
But her testimony would have been needed in the criminal trial to pursue a conviction against Brian Aldridge, Hood said.
Aldridge’s attorney, T.K. Moffett of Tupelo, could not be reached Thursday night.
“The grand jury thought he needed to stand trial and believed he was involved,” Hood said Thursday. “…It was just unfortunate that the witness died.”
Aldridge was charged with one count of grand larceny and his parents face multiple charges of embezzlement.
The charges stem from a lawsuit filed by Florence Aldridge, the widow of Louis Aldridge’s brother. She claimed in the civil trial she lost most of her nearly $700,000 in assets while Louis Aldridge had power of attorney over her estate.
Documents from the civil trial reveal that her assets were spent on vacations, casino visits, cars and other items. Chancellor Michael Malski, who presided over the civil trial, ordered Louis Aldridge to repay $552,000 to his sister-in-law. He also ordered Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., a charity for disabled children headed by Brian Aldridge, to repay $140,000 that it allegedly received from Florence Aldridge’s assets.
Brian Aldridge claimed at the civil trial that he did not know about his father’s actions.
Aldridge’s legislative salary was ordered to be garnished as a result of the civil trial. A criminal conviction would have forced his removal from office.
Brian Aldridge was first elected to the state House in 2003 and previously served as chairman of the Mississippi Legislative Conservative Coalition.