Trees’ Defender Sees a Conspiracy

HOUSTON (CN) – An environmental activist claims the Walker County district attorney and the Huntsville police chief conspired against him and his “religious campaign for forest conservation” by having him indicted on six felony counts for objecting to the way a power company trimmed trees after Hurricane Ike.




     In his federal complaint, George Russell describes himself as “an environmental and political activist well-known in the Huntsville area for his efforts over 40 years to preserve forests and trees.”
     Russell is the “founder and prelate” of the Universal Ethican Church, which “participates in the Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation,” according to the complaint.
     The day after Hurricane Ike hit land, Entergy, the power company, sent out a crew to trim trees in Russell’s Huntsville neighborhood.
     “Mr. Russell was complaining to the crew because he believed that they were using an improper method to trim the trees, a method which was unnecessarily destroying the shape, beauty and value of the trees,” the complaint states.
     A crew member called the Huntsville Police Department and filed a harassment complaint against him, Russell says.
     The next day, Russell spotted the same crew trimming trees in his neighborhood. Je took photos. “It is unclear who called the Huntsville Police Department, but three squad cars … arrived on the scene when Mr. Russell left,” according to the complaint.
     The officers found Russell “standing near a tree” in front of his business, and arrested him on a misdemeanor “Interference with Public Duties” charge, according to the complaint.     
     In November 2008 Walker County District Attorney David Weeks, and assistant D.A. Jack Choate, asked a grand jury to indict Russell on six felony counts, alleging disruption of utility services and unlawful threats: specifically, for breaking a Texas law on “Disruption of Gas, Electric and Water Services by Picketing, Threats and Intimidation,” according to the complaint.
     Russell claims the grand jury indicted him though the prosecutors did not call any witnesses to his alleged crimes. He says he “suffered under the threat of felony convictions for approximately three months.”
     On Feb. 17, 2009 a district court dismissed the felony charges against him, Russell says.
     Russell seeks damages for trespass, malicious prosecution and violation of his civil and constitutional rights.
     He sued Weeks, Choate, Walker County, The City of Huntsville, other Huntsville and Walker County officials and agencies, and Entergy Texas and two of its employees.
     Russell is represented by Douglas Becker of Austin.

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