, Muskogee, OK

January 18, 2013

Guilty verdict in abuse case

By Rachel Petersen

— McALESTER – A Pittsburg County District Court jury deliberated for about an hour and a half Friday before delivering a guilty verdict for a Eufaula man accused of child abuse.

Billy Jack Russell, 39, was convicted of one felony count of child abuse by injury. The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison.

Russell was charged in May after he beat a 3-year-old boy with a paddle and his hand.

A police affidavit indicates that Russell was attempting to “potty train” the young boy. The child refused to use the toilet and Russell allegedly “got a paddle and started spanking” him, the affidavit states.

Assistant District Attorney Chuck Sullivan prosecuted the case. “The defendant abused (the boy) on the night of the 30th of April, 2012, causing injury so significant that he went into kidney failure,” Sullivan said after the guilty verdict was announced.

In his opening argument, Sullivan explained that after Russell beat the boy, the child was eventually taken to the emergency room, where doctors determined he had severe bruising, dehydration and renal failure. “That means his kidneys were shutting down due to his injuries,” Sullivan said.

Brecken Wagner, who represented Russell, said: “I disagree with the jury’s verdict. I see no reason why we wouldn't appeal.”

Wagner first spoke to the jury in his opening argument. He explained to the jury that this case was based on one person’s word versus another person’s word. He said the child’s mother, Kelley Good, would testify that Russell “produced these terrible injuries upon this child.”

Wagner argued that Good was being dishonest about what happened. “Good is a mentally ill, meth addict that made a deal with the state,” he said.

Good pleaded no contest Jan. 11 in Pittsburg County District Court to one felony count of enabling or permitting child abuse by injury. She was fined $550, and judgment and sentencing were deferred for five years.

The trial began Thursday, and the first witness called was Good.

She testified that she, Russell and the child had pizza at Russell’s home and that both she and the boy became sick. While she was getting the boy ready for bed, he threw up. She said she asked Russell to help clean the boy and get him ready for bed. She said she went outside and vomited. She testified that when she came back inside, Russell was spanking the boy for not using the “potty.”

Good testified that the beating spanned approximately 45 minutes.

Good testified that she eventually “grabbed” her child and some personal items and left the house.

Wagner asked Good whether she ever attempted to contact the authorities or take her son to the emergency room. “No,” Good answered. “And I know I should have.”

Rachel Petersen writes for the McAlester News-Capital.