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UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Russ Russell said he had been to court and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A viewer who works near Merchants Walk shared this photo with WAAY 31 and says it's a car Russell rented, with pictures Russell took of the victim’s parking style placed in the front windshield.
A viewer who works near Merchants Walk shared this photo with WAAY 31 and says Russell posted it in front of the parking spot. We’ve blurred it to protect the victim’s identity but the sign demands the victim pick up her “cancer sticks and dog poop.”
The Huntsville Police Department has arrested one of the biggest names in Huntsville’s real estate market.
William Howard Russell, known as Russ Russell, is charged with harassment and disorderly conduct. Police booked Russell into the Madison County Jail at 2:20 p.m. Tuesday.
He was released at 4 p.m.
His group, Russ Russell Commercial Real Estate, is behind many multimillion dollar land sales in the area and even more smaller property sales in Huntsville and Madison County.
Lt. Michael Johnson with Huntsville police says Russell is accused of harassing a tenant at a property on Merchants Walk. He says the harassment is alleged to have begun in November 2018, and a report was taken in May 2019.
According to Johnson, it began with a dispute over how a tenant of the property parks their vehicle in a place Russell also frequents. He says it's not clear at this time if this is Russell's office or not. Johnson says Russell claimed the tenant’s parking damages other vehicles.
Johnson says the dispute escalated to Russell taking photos of the tenant’s parking style, making a notebook of the photos and circulating this to other tenants of the property. He says the tenant then obtained an attorney who requested that Russell stop the accused harassment.
Johnson says it's alleged that a letter was sent to Russell’s father about his accused behavior with the tenant, which was believed to have angered Russell more. He says Russell then rented a vehicle for approximately a month, placed it in the tenant’s parking space and posted a sign that said “parking instructions of America” in the back windshield.
According to Johnson, Russell also placed a copy of the photos of the tenant's parking and the victim’s address in public view. Johnson says he also attempted to have the spouse of the tenant arrested for trespassing on the property. He says the tenant's spouse works for the tenant at an office there.
Johnson says Russell said the spouse of the tenant was not allowed to “wear shorts” on the property. He says at this time it's not clear what the disorderly conduct charge against Russell is about.
WAAY 31 spoke with people who said they witnessed the harassment unfold in the parking lot outside of Russ Russell's office, and they told WAAY 31 it lasted several months.
These people didn’t want to go on camera. Some said they were afraid of retaliation.
A nearby tenant sent us a picture of a car they said Russell rented - with pictures they said Russell took, of how the victim parked their car, placed in the front windshield.
WAAY 31 spoke with Russell over the phone and he admitted to renting the car and taking pictures of the victim’s car in the parking lot, which he said “damaged” other vehicles. He confessed to making a notebook with those pictures and sharing it with other tenants.
He also admitted to posting a sign at the spot that said “parking instructions of America.” Currently there is a sign posted there that warns "One space per vehicle. Violators subject to Southern embarassment."
A nearby tenant sent us a picture of another sign they said Russell posted in front of the parking spot. We’ve blurred it to protect the victim’s identity, but the sign demands the victim pick up her “cancer sticks and dog poop.”
Russell told WAAY 31 the victim in this case is the worst tenant he’s ever had.
WAAY 31 reached out to the victim in this case, but we're still waiting to hear back.