Anthony Russ Goes Free On Bail
By: James Kinsella
Anthony Russ, acquitted of murder three weeks ago in the Jacques Sellers case, once again has his freedom.
On Wednesday, Mr. Russ, 22, of General Patton Drive in Hyannis, posted $5,000 cash bail and emerged from Barnstable Superior Courthouse with a wide smile.
Mr. Russ, known as “Little Ant,” has been held in jail for three years—initially on armed assault charges stemming from a September 2007 shooting on Hiramar Road in Hyannis in which no one was hurt, and then as one of two defendants indicted for the July 2007 fatal shooting of Jacques Sellers, 18, on General Patton Drive in Hyannis.
On Wednesday morning in Barnstable Superior Court, Mr. Russ pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a handgun, arising from the September 2007 Hiramar incident.
Agreeing to a sentencing recommendation arrived at by the Cape & Islands District Attorney’s Office and defense attorney Thomas Yonce of Barnstable, Judge Robert C. Rufo sentenced Mr. Russ to two years at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Bourne.
Mr. Russ, however, already has built up more than enough time credit at the county jail to cover Wednesday’s sentence.
Assistant court magistrate Scott D. Colgan confirmed in open court that Wednesday’s sentence was deemed served.
In late October, Mr. Russ posted $5,000 cash bail in Bristol Superior Court on another pending case, assault and battery on a correction officer. He is scheduled to go to trial on that charge on December 6.
That left Mr. Russ held in custody on one last charge: possession of a Class B drug, cocaine, with intent to distribute, arising from an arrest in Hyannis in July 2007.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Kelley said the district attorney’s office and Mr. Yonce had been unable to reach an agreement on how to dispose of that charge. Accordingly, the case has been placed on the Barnstable Superior Court calendar for a pre-trial conference on February 8.
Judge Rufo set cash bail at $5,000. Court officers returned Mr. Russ to the lock-up room next to the courtroom.
Following the proceeding, a friend of Mr. Russ went to the superior court clerk’s office on the first floor and posted the bail.
Mr. Russ, brimming with glee and no longer shackled, subsequently was led by a court officer to the clerk’s office.
The former defendant and several friends left the courthouse a short time later.
Victim’s Mother Seeks Closure
The mother of Jacques Sellers, who asked that her name not be disclosed, said the trial jury’s October 21 verdict of not guilty on Mr. Russ has left her without the closure she was seeking.
In July, a jury convicted Mr. Russ’s codefendant in the case—Julian Green, 22, of Dennis—of second-degree murder. Judge Gary A. Nickerson sentenced Mr. Green to life in prison.
Prosecutor Brian S. Glenny argued in court that Mr. Green and Mr. Russ walked up to the house at 36 General Patton Drive on the evening of July 18, 2007, and between them fired nine shots at the structure.
One of the bullets, fired from a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, struck Jacques Sellers as he sat on a couch in the house’s living room, watching an ESPN sports show on television. Thirty minutes later, he was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.
Jacques Sellers, who had been living in North Carolina, had been sent by his mother to live for the summer on Cape Cod, where the family had relatives.
The prosecutor in the Green trial (as well in the Russ trial), First Assistant District Attorney Brian S. Glenny, argued that Jacques Sellers was the innocent victim of a shooting meant for someone else.
The jury in the July trial convicted Mr. Green of murder. The guilty verdict came in even though the prosecution acknowledged that Mr. Green, who police said was wielding a .380-caliber Magnum revolver, did not fire the fatal shot.
At both trials, the prosecution held that Mr. Russ, wielding a .40-caliber handgun, fired the shot that killed Jacques Sellers.
The jury in the Russ trial, however, came back with a verdict of not guilty on the murder charge and the four related charges in the indictment.
In a telephone interview the week following the verdict, the mother of Jacques Sellers said, “My life changed forever on July 18, 2007, and my life changed again forever last Thursday.”
One Killing, Two Verdicts
People outside the court system—and some of those inside—were puzzled how one jury could convict the codefendant who the prosecution said did not fire the killing shot and another jury could acquit the codefendant who the prosecution said did fire the fatal shot.
A possible explanation: though the prosecution’s purported facts of the case were the same at both trials, the evidence presented to the juries differed in a couple of key aspects.
At the Julian Green trial, the court had allowed the prosecution to introduce letters written from jail to his then-girlfriend, Jessica Schwenk of Yarmouth, in which he acknowledged participating in the shoot-up of 36 General Patton Drive.
At the Anthony Russ trial, a prosecution witness, Devarus Hampton, flipped his testimony, saying that another resident of General Patton Drive, Todd Lampley, told Mr. Hampton that he had been involved in the shooting.
From previous testimony at the Russ trial, the jury knew that Mr. Lampley had a continuing argument with Rodney Ferguson, a Yarmouth resident who not only periodically beat up Mr. Lampley, but who often would visit his brother at 36 General Patton Drive. Mr. Lampley, meanwhile, lived a few doors down the street, at 23 General Patton Drive.
For the Russ jury, Mr. Hampton’s testimony opened the door to the possibility of a different shooter than Mr. Russ.
Joan Fund, the New Bedford attorney appointed to represent Mr. Russ, also hammered at three key prosecution witnesses, all of whom had been charged with crimes and all of whom, Ms. Fund said, had gained or stood to gain by telling a version of events for the prosecution.
All three witnesses—Ms. Schwenk and two men, Dana Durfee and Borkay Baygboe, who were in jail with Mr. Russ—testified that he had acknowledged participating in the shoot-up of the house.
Julian Green, meanwhile, had declined a plea bargain from the prosecution in which he would plead guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in return for testifying against Mr. Russ at his murder trial.
In a brief post-mortem on the trial, Ms. Fund said that the Russ jury saw how much the three witnesses could gain through testimony that fit in with the prosecution’s storyline.
Mr. Glenny, the prosecutor, declined to speculate on what led the jury to come in with a verdict of not guilty.
Asked how one jury could convict Julian Green of murder and another jury could acquit Mr. Russ of the same charge, Mr. Glenny pointed to the jailhouse letters written by Mr. Green, in which he acknowledges participating in the crime.
The Russ jury did not have access to those letters since Julian Green refused to testify in that trial. Instead, the prosecution had to offer testimony of alleged conversations between Mr. Russ and several witnesses.
Plea Resolves Hiramar Case
The decision by Mr. Russ to plead guilty Wednesday to the September 2007 shooting on Hiramar Road not only effectively takes jail time off the table for him, but also completes the prosecution’s case.
Three other defendants charged in the September 2007 shooting—Mark D. DeGrace Jr. of Hyannis, Jermaine J. Gomes of Harwich and Anthony Russ’s father, Rufus Russ of Hyannis—previously had pleaded guilty in February 2009 in the case. Each was sentenced to a 17-month jail term.
In February 2009, Mr. Russ was awaiting trial on the Sellers murder and did not change his plea on the Hiramar shooting.
Matthew Kelley, the assistant district attorney on the Hiramar case, said Wednesday in Barnstable Superior Court that the prosecution would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony Russ had acted in a joint venture with the other three defendants to arrange for a shooting of a Hyannis man named Dennis Edwards.
In September 2007, two months after the Sellers murder but before Anthony Russ had been charged in that case, he and Mr. Edwards were involved in a series of altercations and verbal arguments.
On September 21, Mr. Kelley said, Anthony Russ, Rufus Russ and Mark DeGrace confronted Dennis Edwards in front of 44 Hiramar Road. Eight .45-caliber shots then were fired by a fourth individual standing in a nearby treeline, a man identified by witnesses as Jermaine Gomes.
No one was hit by the bullets, although several of them struck a nearby house at 50 Hiramar Road.
On Wednesday, Anthony Russ acknowledged to Judge Rufo that the account was accurate. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a handgun.
During Wednesday’s formal proceeding, his only question to his attorney, Thomas Yonce, was if the two-year sentence would be covered as time served.
A Mother Remembers Her Son
With Mr. Russ in the spotlight, less attention has been focused on the victim, Jacques Sellers.
But the mother of the youth said she lives every day with the pain of what happened to her son.
“He was my only child,” she said. “He was the sweetest person. Everybody who met him loved him.”
At the Russ trial, most of the people who attended each day were supporters of Anthony Russ, including the defendant’s grandparents, Betty and Rufus Russ Sr. of Hyannis, and friends including Mark DeGrace, Mr. Russ’s codefendant in the Hiramar shooting, and Anthony Barrows, who is known as “Big Ant,” and is another General Patton resident.
In contrast, the victim’s family for the most part was not present, although his uncle, Phillip Spencer of Hyannis, attended on occasion.
“After the verdict came back from the jury,” the mother of Jacques wrote in an email, “we [the family] thought maybe the jury thought that because none of Jacques’ family attended the trial that we didn’t care.
“That is so far from the truth,” she wrote. “My parents are 75 and 73 years old and not able to travel. My other brothers have jobs, and the main reason his father and I didn’t attend is because we have already have to live with the memory of our burying our child, we couldn’t bear to sit through and hear all of the details of how he died. This was just another memory we could not process.
“It was not that Jacques wasn’t loved because he was and still is loved,” she wrote.
In an interview, the mother of Jacques said, “The Bible says, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. I just have to wait and pray to God to provide me with justice, because I know it’s coming.”
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