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July 31, 2015

Huntsville, Alabama Police Officer Convicted of Excessive Use of Force and Obstruction of Justice

WASHINGTON—A federal jury in Huntsville, Alabama, convicted Huntsville Police Department Officer Brett Russell, 48, of deprivation of rights under color of law for assaulting and injuring G.H., a detainee, as well as obstruction of justice for filing a false police report regarding this incident.

According to the evidence presented at trial, on Dec. 23, 2011, G.H. was detained in the rear of a police vehicle parked in a hotel parking lot. After initially uttering profanity and kicking a rear window, G.H. sat handcuffed, compliant and nonresisting for approximately 30 minutes. As officers attempted to remove G.H. from the vehicle to place leg shackles on him, Russell yanked G.H. from the vehicle. While G.H. was lying handcuffed on the ground, the defendant repeatedly punched and kneed G.H. Other officers placed leg shackles on G.H. and Russell then transported G.H. to the Madison County, Alabama, Jail. When the jail refused to accept G.H. because of his injuries, Russell transported G.H.to the Huntsville Hospital. Russell subsequently wrote and submitted a false report claiming that G.H. tried to kick and head butt the officers. Further, Russell omitted from the false report any reference to the fact that he had used force on G.H.

Russell faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the civil rights charge and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years for the obstruction charge. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled, but will occur before U.S. District Court Judge Abdul K. Kallon in the Northern District of Alabama.

“The criminal behavior of this officer undermines the dedicated efforts of the vast majority of officers who serve honorably,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding officers who engage in such criminal acts accountable.”

“Most police officers honor their oaths, day in and day out, to uphold the law and protect the public, but this defendant disgraced his badge and used excessive force against a man in handcuffs,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama. “Today’s verdict reflects that abusing the authority of a police badge is a serious crime and it will be punished accordingly. My office remains committed to aggressive civil rights enforcement, and I thank the FBI for its dedication to investigating and compiling evidence in these type of cases. “

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Florence Resident Agency. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Carroll McCabe of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Fortune and Xavier O. Carter Sr. of the Northern District of Alabama.

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