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Lincoln jury finds ex-Seward County deputy not guilty of statutory rape 13 years ago

Lincoln jury finds ex-Seward County deputy not guilty of statutory rape 13 years ago

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LINCOLN — In closing arguments Wednesday, the defense attorney summed up the case to the jury as two teenagers having a one-night stand 13 years ago.

If it happened in June 2007, it was perfectly legal, said Nicholas Bridgmon's attorney, Mallory Hughes. The girl was 15, he was 18.

If it happened two months later, after Bridgmon turned 19, it wasn't. 

"This just shows the problems of memory and attempting to try to remember something from 13 years ago," she said at the close of the trial held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center because of the pandemic.

Bridgmon, now 32, ended up facing the first-degree sexual assault charge — and another in Johnson County — after he applied to be a Nebraska State Patrol trooper in November 2018.

During a preemployment polygraph exam, State Patrol Investigator Stacie Lundgren asked the then-Seward County Sheriff's deputy about sexual behavior in his past, which led to names of teenage girls he had sex with when he was a teenager.

When the State Patrol tracked her down, the woman, now in her 30s, said at first she thought she was 16 when they had sex in the Lincoln apartment her sister shared with Bridgmon and another woman.

After checking rental records, the investigator learned she was 15, and the woman and her sister said it happened the night of a concert they'd gone to together. 

The woman told the jury she remembered what she wore that night and drinking alcohol and Brigmon taking her hand and leading her to his bedroom and intercourse. 

In closing arguments, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Chris Reid said the woman was adamant that it happened in the fall. She remembered missing school to go the concert. 

"It comes down to the ages of Mr. Bridgmon and (his accuser). She was 15," he said. "Was he 19 when this occurred? That is what you all will need to determine."

"Maybe some of you don't like how this came out. Maybe some of you don't like that this was 13 years ago. ... But the law is about protecting minor children," he said.

Hughes, the defense attorney, said: "it also protects innocent people."

She said Bridgmon's accuser was persistent the show was at Knickerbockers. The June show was the most likely time when the incident happened. 

Hughes blamed failing memories and a "tunnel vision investigation" that only tried to prove Bridgmon was 19 and didn't eliminate the possibility it happened in June, when he was 18. 

"That's your reasonable doubt," she said.

Hughes' co-counsel, John Berry Jr., said, "Mr. Bridgmon has always maintained his innocence, and we are happy with the results."

Bridgmon still has an open case in Johnson County, where a woman has alleged he forced himself on her when she was 17 and he was 19.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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