Based on nothing more than a child's note to a teacher, this man has had this hanging over his head for a year. I do agree with his attorneys comment: "The problem for him is that in a criminal trial, no one is ever found 'innocent,' but they are found 'not guilty.' The accusations will always be out there, and it's going to be difficult for him because of the stigma just from being accused."
If the standard is "Innocent until proven guilty", then it should be "innocent" not "not guilty." It is time the presumption of innocence meant that we really do presume innocence. The way things are, however, the attorney is correct: this will always be hanging over Mr. Russel's head.
Innocent of child sexual abuse
A Levy County man was found not guilty of the sex crimes filed against him in 2007 after a Levy County jury deliberated for about 40 minutes at the end of a two-day trial last week.
Dennis Harold Russell, 45, of the Bronson area, was charged in 2007 with lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under age 12 and participating in a sex act involving a child in custodial care.
The charges were made after the alleged victim wrote a note to a teacher making accusations against Russell.
Russell's attorney, Geoffrey R. Mason, said the jury believed the testimony given by Russell and other witnesses at the trial on Thursday.
"There was a lot of conflicting evidence and not much supporting evidence for her version of events," Mason said. "He testified this never happened, and she claimed it happened almost every day for nine years."
Mason said the alleged victim may have been motivated by her desire to distance Russell from her family, with whom he had a long-term relationship.
Russell had been serving as president of the Bronson Youth League and as Otter Creek's town clerk and chief of the Otter Creek volunteer fire department when the charges were made.
After he turned himself in on the charges in October 2007, Russell was removed or resigned from those positions.
Russell was initially held without bond at the Levy County Jail in Bronson but has been free on bond awaiting trial.
Shortly before being charged, Russell sold his tire businesses, said Mason of Gainesville, and has supported himself over the past two years with the proceeds of those sales.
"My advice to him (after the verdict) was to 'go be the person you were before these charges were filed,' " Mason said.
"The problem for him is that in a criminal trial, no one is ever found 'innocent,' but they are found 'not guilty.' The accusations will always be out there, and it's going to be difficult for him because of the stigma just from being accused."
Russell, who has continued to live in the Bronson area, could not be reached for comment on Monday.