Published: Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Russ case will go to jury for verdict
The judge overruled a motion by the defense to dismiss the charges.
By TIM YOVICH
WARREN A Trumbull County Common Pleas Court jury is expected to begin deliberations today in the trial of Irving Russ, accused of driving the vehicle that struck a Howland girl and then left the scene.
Judge John M. Stuard told jurors they will get the case about noon after closing arguments.
On Monday, defense attorneys Jeffrey Goodman and John Fowler rested their case after Judge Stuard overruled their motion that the charges against Russ be dismissed because of the lack of credible evidence.
Russ is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, tampering with evidence and complicity to tampering with evidence.
He is accused of being the driver of a Mazda sports utility vehicle that struck Annie Lee, of Howland, who was 11 at the time, along with her brother and grandmother at U.S. Route 422 and North Road in Niles in 2004. The brother and grandmother were not badly injured.
Annie died last month in Cleveland, where she was being treated for a brain infection.
In arguing to dismiss the charges against Russ, Goodman said that prosecutors had failed to present credible evidence that Russ was driving the SUV when it struck Annie.
Because there was no evidence that Russ was driving the vehicle, Goodman asserted, there is no evidence that he moved the vehicle after the accident.
Goodman also argued that Russ told his girlfriend at the time, Raheema Wright, who lived with Russ in Warren when the accident occurred, Aug. 16, 2004, to report to police that the vehicle had been stolen. That was the same day of the accident.
Chris Becker, an assistant county prosecutor, countered with the testimony earlier in the trial of Wright and Jerrell Reed of Warren, a passenger in the SUV at the time of the accident. Reed said Russ was driving the vehicle when it struck the family.
Becker agreed with Goodman that Russ did not hide the vehicl, but rather removed it from the scene of the accident to reduce its value as evidence.
He pointed out that Reed testified Russ drove the SUV after the accident to Wick Street in Warren, a block away from the Briar Street home of Russ' father, Ray Cambridge.
Cambridge testified that his son told him he thought he was in trouble and may have hit some people. Wright testified Russ made a similar comment to her, Becker pointed out.
Russ did not take the witness stand.