JUSTIN RUSSELL (d.o.b. 9-17-1978), of Branson, was sentenced to ten (10) years in prison on Thursday, February 16, 2012, for abusing his infant child on August 1, 2011. Russell had previously entered a guilty plea to the class C felony of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree on December 15, 2011, pursuant to a plea agreement.
The felony charge stemmed from an investigation into a 9-1-1 call from Russellâ€™s mother, the grandmother of the abused child. The grandmother witnessed Russell cover the infantâ€™s face with something for several seconds, in response to the baby crying. The witness then watched while Russell yelled and threw the baby about six (6) feet onto a couch. The grandmother did not intervene immediately out of fear of Russell hurting her or further abusing the infant. When questioned on the scene, Russell had denied any abuse toward the baby. At the time of his plea, however, Russell did exhibit remorse to the Court for his actions toward his child.
Endangering the welfare of a child is a class C felony, which normally carries a maximum penalty of seven (7) years in prison, however, Russell had been charged as a persistent felony offender by the Taney County Prosecutorâ€™s Office, so he was eligible for up to fifteen (15) years in prison on the charge.