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Clark: Court should find Russell unappealing, too

Thu., Dec. 16, 2010

Time heals all wounds, so the old cliché goes.

But I’m willing to bet you’d hear a chorus of disagreement on that truism from the family and friends of Brandon Clements, Stacy G. Morrow and Ryan Sorensen.

Remember them?

Those were the three Washington State University students, kids in their early 20s, whose lives were snuffed out on the Moscow-Pullman highway one night thanks to an alcohol-gassed punk named Fred Russell.

Though the carnage took place the night of June 4, 2001, the wounds are no doubt just as raw for the loved ones that this drunken driver left behind. Not to mention the four others Russell injured, three of them severely.

But now – just in time for the holidays – there is fresh pain for the victims to bear.

On Monday an attorney representing Russell was in a Spokane-based state appeals court hoping to catch a break for his incarcerated client.

What a crock.

Fred Russell needs a break like Charlie Sheen needs another porn star in his hotel room.

Russell could have his own month in a calendar devoted to unsympathetic felons.

He’s the coward who ran rather than man up and stand trial for what he did. Russell’s sly run took him to Ireland, where the bail jumper lived four years under a fake name. Finally nabbed, Russell then ate up more than another year fighting for political asylum.

In the end, not even the extradition-averse Irish wanted this loser. May the saints be praised!

Russell was returned to the area and to a deserved fate.

Cowlitz County jurors convicted Russell on three counts of vehicular homicide (plus three charges of vehicular assault). A judge gave the former WSU student (a criminal justice major, no less) 14 years.

Did anyone say “do over”?

That’s the way the system works, of course. Hope ceases for the dead. For the guilty, it’s a cottage industry of legal maneuvering.

In a nutshell, Russell would like his conviction tossed, thank you very much, and a new trial scheduled.

Why? For the same ol’ reasons we’ve all heard a zillion times over.

Bum evidence. Bum treatment.

Bum this. Bum that …

Translation: Dude don’t wanna be in prison no more. Go figure.

My personal favorite part of the Fred Russell wish list is that he would also like credit for the 384 days he spent locked up in Ireland.

Say, what?

The only reason Russell fought his extradition was to keep from having to come back here, you know, for a trial.

“Had he won, he would have been home free,” explained Melanie Tratnik, the state attorney opposing the Russell appeal.

She’s right. Without an extradition agreement, Russell could have remained in Ireland thumbing his nose at the U.S. of A.

It was a high-stakes gamble, and he lost.

So now he wants credit for the time he spent trying to subvert our justice?

Damn. That may be the nerviest load of manure since O.J. Simpson vowed to spend his life searching for his wife’s decapitator.

I asked Tratnik for her crystal-ball read on what the future might bring. Appeals court decisions can take months, after all.

“I would never, ever predict what an appeals court would do,” she told me, adding that not only is speculating bad luck, but, in reality, “you just don’t know.”

Let’s all pray the appeals court that decides this case has at least half a brain. Because half a brain is really all anyone would ever need to know enough to keep Russell right where he is.

That, by the way, is the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Wash.

Maybe it’s just me. But I take odd comfort in knowing that Freddie Boy is cooling his heels in an institution that bears the name of a mangy scavenger.

My apologies to coyotes everywhere. Too bad Washington doesn’t have a Skunk Ridge lockup.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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