DA: Abuse of disabled citizens cannot be tolerated

Randy Russell (Photo source: Harrison Co. Sheriff's Dept.)
Randy Russell (Photo source: Harrison Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A man accused of sexually assaulting a disabled woman two years ago in Harrison County was convicted this week, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Randy Russell, 51, was identified by the victim as the man who assaulted her. A neighbor also testified during trial that Russell had confessed the sexual battery to him during an earlier conversation.

The investigation began when the victim's caretaker/guardian reported the assault to the Harrison County Sheriff's Office in May of 2011. The victim, who was 27 at the time of the assault, had previously been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and mild mental retardation. Though her speech was limited, the victim was able to describe for law enforcement what happened to her.

"During trial, the victim took the witness stand and testified against Russell. She was brave and her testimony was consistent with earlier disclosures to her caretaker and to law enforcement," said Alison Baker, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Robert McCormick.

Dr. Mark Carpenter, the director of clinical services at South Mississippi Regional Medical Center, testified that the victim had an IQ of 55 which was equivalent to a mental age of 7 years and 2 months.

"The victim showed a great deal of strength, and we are glad that she can now move forward from this chapter in her life. Abuse of disabled citizens are especially troubling and cannot be tolerated," said District Attorney Joel Smith.

After receiving the jury's verdict, Harrison County Circuit Court Judge Larry Bourgeois sentenced Byers to 25 years in prison, to be served day for day without the possibility of early release or parole. After his release, Russell will have to register as a sex offender.

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