Russell Plea Bargain Agreement

Here is the plea bargain agreement in the Russell case. As you can see, Mr. Russell pled guilty to misprision of a felony by:

  1. Having knowledge of the commission of a federal felony — that is, possession of child pornography;
  2. Failing to notify federal authorities; and
  3. Deliberately taking some affirmative step to conceal the crime — that is, returning to his law office with the computer containing the child pornography, taking the laptop computer apart, and destroying and concealing the computer.

The first two elements of the offense are things that criminal-defense lawyers do every day. As others have pointed out, it’s our job to have knowledge of the commission of felonies and to fail to notify authorities. We are ethically bound, in most instances, not to share with authorities our knowledge of felonies that have been committed.

Question: was Russell’s action in destroying the computer so far beyond the pale that we shouldn’t be surprised that he was successfully prosecuted? Or does this really mark a major change in the relationship between government and criminal-defense lawyers?

Comment, please.

0 responses to “Russell Plea Bargain Agreement”

  1. To me the act of distroying the computer goes way beyond the line of respecting client confidentiality and deserves to be prosecuted.

  2. I’m curious as to what other attorneys would have done in this situation. This guy went for maximum damage and committed two crimes: property damage AND the misprison of a felony.

    I think I’d have avoided taking personal possession and advised my client (the church) to turn it over to the authorities with a warning not to destroy the evidence.

    I am trying to think of a crime committed by just giving the computer back to the owner. They’d probably charge someone with distribution of child porn.

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