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Jury gets early exit; Man pleads to helping brother evade arrest but avoids felony conviction

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, January 12, 2019
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A Decatur man on trial for a third degree felony charge wound up pleading to a misdemeanor charge during his trial Wednesday in district court.

James Allen Russell

James Allen Russell, 36, pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning at the beginning of his trial for hindering the apprehension or prosecution of a known felon.

Prosecutors argued James Russell tried to help his brother, Timothy Russell, avoid arrest after Timothy ran from officers during a traffic stop last year.

The main issue at the trial was whether James knew his brother had committed a felony offense when he ran from police.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Jackson Bridgeman testified that during a traffic stop on the evening of May 7 south of Boyd, he found out Timothy had local warrants and possibly a parole violation warrant. When he went to detain Timothy, he took off running down a private driveway. Bridgeman was able to catch Timothy and tackle him, but when he felt Timothy was pulling on his gun, the officer pushed him away and Timothy ran off into a wooded area.

Evidence was presented that James later picked up his brother.

DPS Trooper Kyle Stanley, who is stationed in Gainesville, testified that on May 8, he made contact with a friend of Timothy’s who had been in contact with him the day before. The friend, Shanna Hammock, testified that she agreed to have a text conversation in the presence of the officer with Timothy, who suggested she pick him up at the Shell station on U.S. 380 in Decatur. Timothy arrived in a vehicle driven by James, and they were arrested by waiting officers.

Both were interviewed separately. Timothy told officers he told James what happened the evening before.

But James claimed he thought his brother had only committed a misdemeanor offense when he ran from the officer. In order for the jury to find James guilty of the third degree felony charge, they would have to find that James knew his brother was wanted for a felony offense.

After the state rested its case Wednesday afternoon, defense attorney Paul Belew asked District Judge Brock Smith for a directed verdict.

“The state didn’t prove James Russell knew his brother had committed a felony offense…There’s no way a jury could find him guilty,” Belew said.

Assistant District Attorney Pat Berry pointed out that Timothy Russell had spent a year in jail in 2014 for the felony offense of evading arrest or detention with a previous conviction, and his brother must have known the new charge would be a felony as well.

Smith ruled in favor of the defense motion, which left the jury with the option of deciding guilt on a Class A misdemeanor charge of hindering apprehension. Berry said he’d be willing to offer James Russell a plea deal of time served for a misdemeanor offense, and the offer was quickly agreed to by defense counsel.

James had been in jail since his arrest on May 9 of last year, according to jail records.

Timothy is awaiting trial on two state jail felony charges of evading arrest or detention with a previous conviction and attempt to take weapon from an officer as well as a Class A misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

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