UPDATE: Bowling lawsuit hearing focuses on anonymous letter, filing date

By PATSY R. BRUMFIELD/Daily Journal

OXFORD – A federal judge considers whether more defendants can be brought into a civil lawsuit related to the Dwight Bowling sex scandal.
Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. today heard arguments as to whether time has run out for an alleged Bowling victim.
The plaintiff, now an adult, claims Bowling sexually molested him and others over a period of years while Bowling was a coach at Smithville High School.
One issue was whether an anonymous letter to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal offers any legal basis for the man’s attorney’s contention that others at the school knew about the abuse but failed to do anything about it.
Defendants are Bowling, Monroe County School District, as well as William “Bo” Stevens, Smithville principal, Billy “Bubba” Tacker, a coach now assistant principal, and the late John Crestman, then assistant principal.
Today’s hearing focused on a defense appeal of a magistrate judge’s ruling to allow addition of Stevens, Tacker and Crestman as defendants.
The district denies the man’s allegations and insists it was not informed about any improper behavior by Bowling during the time in question.
Bowling, 57, is serving a 25-year federal prison sentence associated with his guilty plea that he transported minor males across state lines for sex and tried to tamper with a witness. He also faces state prison time, when and if he completes the federal sentence.
He worked for the Smithville school from 1977 through 2006.
The lawsuit seeks damages against all the defendants.
The original lawsuit, accusing only Bowling and the school district, was filed Sept. 1, 2011.
Defense attorney Mitch Driskell of Oxford argued that the statute of limitations to file the lawsuit was Nov. 28, 2011 when the plaintiff turned 21.
Under state law, if a minor is affected by an injury as alleged here, the three-year statute of limitations to file legal action does not begin until he or she is 21.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Donald Medley of Hattiesburg, told Biggers he and his client were not aware that others might have failed to act until similar allegations in an anonymous letter were reported about Bowling while his criminal charges worked their way through the judicial system.
Medley told Biggers he did not know who wrote the letter, but that its information widened the scope of concerns about Bowling and who knew about his behavior.
Without the letter’s author, the information it contains is not admissable but hearsay, Driskell insisted.
He argued that the victim, as a child, claimed he knew that school officials saw improper behavior by Bowling but looked the other way.
Biggers ordered the letter sealed in the court record and said he will decide soon about the three new defendants.
The case was due for trial Feb. 11, but the judge said he will set another, later date for its start.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com