Opp man convicted of assault in ‘08 case

Published 12:03 am Saturday, May 26, 2012

An Opp man indicted for attempted murder was convicted on Friday of a lesser charge of assault in the first degree after a jury deliberated for two and a half hours.

Joseph Russell, 62, was arrested in November 2008, after he cut Jeffery Jameson Bennett, 42, of Opp on the neck.

Bennett was treated at Mizell Memorial Hospital and released.

Bennett suffered a 4-inch laceration to the left side of his neck, which required multiple stitches and left significant scarring.

During the trial, evidence showed that Bennett was the victim of a previous crime at the hands of Russell’s granddaughter.

Russell was initially charged with first-degree assault as a result of the incident at Opp’s Little Harlem Club on Hardin Street; however, the Covington County Grand Jury upgraded the charge against Russell to attempted murder.

District Attorney Walt Merrell prosecuted the case, and he argued that the arrest of Russell’s granddaughter was his motive for the crime.

Court records show that Russell has felony convictions for possessing a fire arm with an altered serial number, felony driving under the influence and grand larceny.

He will be sentenced on July 12, and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Joseph Russell needs to be behind bars,” Merrell said. “I’m glad Judge (Lex) Short remanded him to custody, pending sentencing. He is a repeat offender and a menace to our community, although he tried to claim his crime was somehow justified. The jury saw through his smokescreen and focused on what really happened. I appreciate how hard everyone worked on this case from the Opp Police Department all they way through to the jury. Everyone worked hard. You just can’t ask for any more than that.”

David Harrison of Geneva represented Russell.