Prosecutors recommend maximum penalty in Annie Lee case



Irving Russ has been convicted of crimes three times.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office recommends Irving Russ of Warren, convicted of several crimes in connection with the accident that injured 10-year-old Annie Lee of Howland, receive the prison maximum sentence of 11 years.
Russ, 32, was found guilty in last November of failure to stop after an accident and two counts of tampering with evidence. He is due to be sentenced Feb. 1 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, Ken Bailey and Chris Becker, assistant prosecutors, ask that Russ get maximum sentences of five years in prison on each of the tampering charges and one year on the charge of failure to stop after an accident.
"The state reluctantly admits that this sentence would not permanently protect the public from Irving Russ and falls woefully short of 'punishing' Irving Russ for running over a 10-year-old girl and leaving her in the middle of a busy intersection, but it is unfortunately the only sentence the court can give under the current state of the law," the filing says.
Russ could also receive probation with no jail time. He has been in the county jail since his trial ended Nov. 8.
About the case
Annie was struck by a vehicle Aug. 16, 2004, at U.S. Route 422 and North Road in Niles, leaving her a quadriplegic. She had been walking with her grandmother and brother, who were not badly injured.
She died at age 13 last October in Cleveland, where she was being treated for a brain infection.
Bailey said the prosecution would have sought more severe charges against Russ, but prosecutors didn't have a ruling from the Cuyahoga County Coroner's office on the cause of Annie's death at the time of the Russ trial. Also, speedy-trial requirements prevented prosecutors from delaying the case any longer. The Russ trial took place just weeks after Annie's death.
The filing says the criminal background of Russ should be considered in his sentencing. It includes a conviction at age 22 for trafficking in marijuana in Delaware County. In 1999, he was convicted in federal court of possession of an unregistered firearm and sentenced to 24 to 36 months in prison.
At the time of the Niles accident, Russ' license was suspended.
A conviction of complicity to tampering with evidence is related to Russ' asking his girlfriend, Raheema Wright, to file a false police report indicating the car he drove that night had been stolen. His conviction of tampering with evidence relates to his removing the vehicle from the crime scene.
John Fowler, one of the defense attorneys for Russ, said the trial established that Russ was not at fault in the accident. "If he had not left the scene, he would not have been charged with a crime," Fowler said. "It was a terrible result, but the accident itself was not his fault."

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