James and Carla Russell are expected to appear in 25th District Judge William D. Old’s court Monday, Feb. 12, for a pre-trial hearing on charges of misapplication of fiduciary property or property of a financial institution.
The Russells, who are represented by Robert Bland, had a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 2, but it was reset for Feb. 12. Other pre-trial hearing dates are set for March 25 and April 1. Pre-trial hearings often are used by the judge to determine legal issues and motions and can be a chance for the defense or prosecution to present evidence or witness testimony they wish to include or exclude at trial.
It is not known when the case will officially go to trial.
The couple are accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the Gonzales County Emergency Medical Services. They are being tried by the Texas Attorney General’s office after the case was referring to them by County Attorney Paul Watkins. They have pleaded not guilty.
The Russells were each indicted by a Gonzales County grand jury in November 2019 on one count of misapplication of fiduciary funds in the amount of $30,000 or more but less than $150,000 and one count of theft by public servant in the amount of $30,000 or more but less than $150,000.
The pair were initially arrested on June 4, 2018 following a lengthy investigation into allegations of misappropriation of Gonzales County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) funds. Jim Russell previously served as the EMS director while Carla Russell was the EMS’ acting bookkeeper.
While Jim Russell was under investigation by several law enforcement agencies in January 2018, the EMS board placed him on administrative leave without pay. When his arrest became public, he was terminated by the board on June 26, 2018. The board requested that Carla Russell resign from her position following her arrest and she obliged.
The indictment alleges that between January 2011 to June 2018 the Russells misapplied EMS funds —over which they had responsibility — for their own benefit. This occurred by depositing money meant for the EMS and CPR classes into their own personal bank accounts, overpaying themselves or other employees for unworked hours, being paid by other entities while simultaneously being paid by the EMS and mishandling donations to the EMS.
Since the Russells were arrested and charged, the EMS merged with the Gonzales County Emergency Services District No. 1 and have come under the direction of Eddie Callendar Jr. and Allen Linebrink, who have worked to stabilize funding for the county’s EMS operations.
Editor’s Note: Criminal defendants are granted the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.