East Texas District Attorney faces federal criminal charges - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

East Texas District Attorney faces federal criminal charges

Lynda Russell Lynda Russell

SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas District Attorney is now the focus of a federal criminal investigation.

The Associated Press is reporting that Shelby County District Attorney Lynda K. Russell is being investigated by the Justice Department on corruption charges.

Russell and other Shelby County officials allegedly offered leniency to drug runners and money launderers in exchange for the cash they had on hand at the time of their arrests.

A December 2006 photo, obtained by the Associated Press, shows Russell and two other Shelby County authorities with 15 kilos of cocaine and $81,000 in cash seized during a traffic stop near the Shelby County town of Tenaha.

The driver of that car was arrested in the case, but instead of a prison sentence, he agreed to forfeit the $81,000 in exchange for a fine and probation.

The federal investigation alleges that this case is just one of many in Shelby County. Authorities reportedly collected more than $800,000 in less than a year in cases that normally would have resulted in prison sentences for the defendants.

Russell has been involved in another Department of Justice civil rights investigation and civil lawsuit since 2008 that claims she and other law enforcement officers in Tenaha targeted minority drivers for traffic stops and let them go when they forfeited the money they had with them in their cars.

Those funds were allegedly spent illegally on campaign materials, parades, and holiday decorations, among other things.

Russell has not testified or commented publicly in either case. She pleaded the 5th in a deposition in the civil lawsuit, primarily because she was also being investigated by a federal grand jury on these criminal charges.

Russell has been the District Attorney for Shelby County since 1999.

Shelby County is in Southeast Texas, near the Louisiana border.

Copyright 2011 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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