Cynthia L. Russell, 53, Bidwell, erroneously identified as being connected to a drug case in 2014 and originally listed as having been indicted by the Gallia County Grand Jury in January 2018 on possession and trafficking of heroin, has been cleared of all charges and the case against her was dismissed.
According to Gallia County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Holdren, the 2018 charges stemmed from a 2014 case involving Misty D. Baird, 32, Bidwell, who ultimately pled guilty to possession of drugs in that case and was sentenced to 12 months in prison. The 2014 incident report filed by the Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia and Meigs Counties, which was fairly new at the time according to Holdren, identified Russell as Baird’s mother and she was listed as a witness in the case file.
A recent investigation into the trafficking and possession of drugs, in which Baird was a suspect, resulted in the charging of Russell, based on the 2014 erroneous information that she was Baird’s mother. According to the incident report, following a controlled buy by a confidential informant, who stated an older female was the person who completed the alleged transaction, the CI “was shown a photograph of Misty Baird’s mother, Cynthia Russell” and positively identified her as the person who sold him the heroin. The case, which included Russell listed as the accused and her photo, was then forwarded to the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office.
Upon follow up of the case, the mistake was discovered and it was determined Russell had nothing to do with either cases.
According to Holdren, it did not appear Russell was interviewed prior to the 2018 case being sent to the Grand Jury for consideration, which is commonplace in drug cases involving confidential informants.
“If you’re working with confidential informants, one goal is that you do not disclose who that individual is because of the nature of the work that they’re doing,” said Holdren. “If you get a buy from someone and then you try to pull them in for an interview, you’re potentially tipping them off to the [identity of the confidential information]. So, that’s not a practice that they typically engage in.”
While Holdren said, based on the information received by his office, there was nothing in the case file that would have made his office question the charges, since the mistake has carried through since 2014, he and members of the Task Force have been in discussions to identify how this occurred and work to correct any issues.
“We’ve had a number of meetings and we’re looking at the way things have historically been done and how we can improve upon them to ensure that this never happens again,” said Holdren.
On how the mistake was carried on for so long, Holdren said he doesn’t believe Ms. Russell was aware that her name had been attached to the case in 2014, or it could have been resolved then.
Since its formation, Holdren said the Task Force has a large volume of cases and successes in their investigations. Holdren noted the 2017 jury trial of Antonio McIntosh, who was found guilty of nine drug related charges and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
“We’ve had a lot of successes with the task force and they’ve done a really good job. They’re human and in this case, at some point in 2014, misidentified Ms. Russell,” said Holdren, who also said the agent who originally misidentified Ms. Russell is no longer with the task force. “We are sorry for that and I am sorry for that.”
Holdren said he plans to file to have the charges expunged from Ms. Russell’s record. The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Ms. Russell can not be charged again in that case.
The Gallia Herald reached out to Ms. Russell’s attorney for comment but had not heard back as of press time. A follow-up will be printed, should she decide to comment.