On June 6, 2023, The Kenosha County District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute Michael B. Russell after several young high school girls complained of inappropriate touching. The incidents were first reported to the school by the students on February 24, 2023. KUSD refused to notify the Kenosha Police Department, but KPD learned of the allegations from DCFS. KCE blasted KUSD and the Kenosha County DA’s office in an op-ed published on June 25, 2023.
According to the Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley, “conversations are always ongoing about whether any additional avenues can be pursued. In this case, those explorations resulted in more info.”
On Wednesday, January 31, 2024, Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner William Michel signed a $20,000 cash arrest warrant for Russell’s arrest. He was charged with one felony count of Sexual Assault of a Student by School Staff and two misdemeanor counts of Disorderly Conduct. Russell faces six-and-one-half years in the Wisconsin Prison System if convicted.
According to the criminal complaint:
(Graphic Depictions, Sexual In Nature)
On February 24, 2023, “Annie”, who was 17 at the time, went to a teacher with complaints of inappropriate touching from Russell. Annie later told Kenosha Police that she knew Russell for about two years and was made uncomfortable by touching done by Russell. Annie explained that she was a cheerleader and at a basketball game, Russell lightly dragged his hand across her lower back twice. Annie said that at the Winter dance on February 11, 2023, Russell touched her in the collarbone area and “caressed” her bare shoulder near the strap of her dress with his fingers. She said later in the evening he touched her on her leg above her knee several times, again, in a caressing motion. She told Russell that she was having a party after the dance, and Russell asked Annie if “she was 18” so he could join her. Russell also told her to take off his shirt later that evening. Annie told police that all of these interactions made her uncomfortable.
Kenosha Police spoke with another 17-year-old named “Jenny” with similar complaints. Jenny began to notice that Russell would touch her often. If Russell was going by her he would often place his hand on her waist or her hip as he walked past. After this happened for a little while she began to move out of his path to avoid him touching her. One time in the fall of 2022 Russell touched her breast. Jenny was in the technology office talking to Russell when he extended his hand out and touched the middle of her chest on her breast, and lightly dragged his finger across her body to the side of her chest. She described him doing this at “medium” speed with no obvious purpose, like swatting off a bug or swiping debris off her. She said he used the back of his fingers and didn’t say anything or acknowledge it happened.
Another IT specialist at Indian Trail High School who shared an office with Russell shared some information with police. He brought up the name of another student, Kathy, who turned 18 in February of 2023, brought up the name of another student, Kathy. He advised that around the middle part of the Fall Semester of 2022, when Kathy was 17, Kathy would frequently assist with menial tasks. Russell described her has having a “TA like” role. This prompted a warning from Principal Mr. Kennow to Russell and the other IT specialist about how under no circumstances were they allowed to have a TA. There was a discussion between Russell and Kathy about the issue, and there seemed to be an agreement. Shortly after that, Kathy sustained an injury and was unable to participate in gym class, so she would spend her gym period in the technology office with Russell. The other IT specialist stated that he did warn Russell about spending too much time in the office with her. This prompted a second warning from Principal Kennow regarding the technology department not having a TA. At this point, Kathy would no longer stay in the office for long periods of time, but would occasionally stop by and say hello, like a fair number of other students. Kathy was interviewed during the initial investigation, but denied any inappropriate contact or communication with Russell. Russell was ultimately put on leave from the school.
Russell was fired in June of 2023 by the Kenosha Unified School District. Kenosha Police Detectives briefed Kenosha Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Smathers about the two allegations of sexual assault. Smathers, who is being sued for defamation, declined to issue charges and told police to close the case. No charges were filed. Russell lawyered up and hired criminal defense attorney Brian Dimmer. Russell refused to answer questions from the police during the investigation.
KCE spoke to parents of some of the Kenosha-area alleged victims and were told they plan to sue the district for negligence. KUSD spokesperson Tanya Ruder asked KCE to not “paint the district and/or district staff in a negative light” in June of 2023. We politely refused. We then ran our op-ed telling our readers how the DA’s Office and KUSD failed our community.
According to the criminal complaint (continued):
(Graphic Depictions, Sexual In Nature)
Kenosha Police reopened the investigation on September 1, 2023 after Kathy and her mother came to the Kenosha Police Lobby to report inappropriate sexual contact by Russell while Kathy was still 17. Kathy stated the inappropriate behavior occurred during school hours at the high school. The Kenosha Police Officer who first spoke to Kathy noted that Kathy was emotional and crying as she made her report, often needing to take breaks. Kathy told police that they had a normal friendship, but during her senior year, “it got weird.” Russell began to contact Kathy on her cell phone.
Kathy stated that things progressed when she was helping Russell put the computers in the carts and clean them. She would push the carts into a room where they were stored and it was in this room that Russell would ask her “inappropriate things.” Russell would close both doors to the room, ask her inappropriate questions, and start touching her. Russell would tell her that it was okay and there was nothing to be scared of. He would also tell her that it was okay because he and his wife had an open relationship.
Russell would ask if he could do sexual things to her. He would hug and squeeze her really tight, and not let go. He would ask what the difference was between Kathy’s boyfriend and Russell, and then tell Kathy that he has better experience than her boyfriend. Russell would ask her when she was going to come visit him. On multiple occasions, Russell would ask her to have sex with him in that closet where the computers were stored. He would ask her in different ways.
Russell would also touch her on her buttock. He would lift up her skirt and touch her butt. One time, he tried to pull her pants down. Kathy said, “What are you doing?” to him repeatedly, but Russell just replied “Don’t worry.” Kathy told him that she did not want to do that. Russell also, on one occasion, put his hand down inside of her pants and tried to put his hand “in there,” referred to her vagina.
As for the messages, Kathy stated that Russell would text her inappropriate things, including asking her to have sex. On one occasion, Russell sent her fully nude photographs of himself and asked, how “it looked.” Around February 27, 2023, Russell told her to delete every Facebook Messenger message between the two of them because he was on the way to the principal’s office. Kathy responded that she did not understand what that had to do with her, to which Russell replied, “just in case.” Russell again asked her to delete everything and that it “had to be gone” so it was like they were not friends. Kathy also got sent to the principal’s office and asked about a relationship with Russell. Kathy said she told the principal no, because Russell told her that everything they were doing was perfectly okay.
Kathy confirmed that Russell gave her a birthday gift in the form of $100 and a ring light for her cell phone. He did this by asking Kathy to drive around the back of ITHSA on either February 11 or 12, 2023. When she did, Russell opened her back door and put the present in her car. When she went to drive away, Russell reached his hand in her car and tried to lift up her skirt.
Kathy later met with a sensitive crimes detective who she told that she did not make any disclosures about her and Russell during the original investigation because Russell always told her that what they were doing was okay. Kathy believed Russell because he was a staff member and because she always confided in him when she had issues. Kathy stated that now she is out of school (having graduated), she understands what Russell did to her was wrong.
Kathy allowed the detective to download her phone. In reviewing the forensic download, he observed numerous Facebook Messenger messages between Kathy and Russell, dating back to March of 2023. These messages are time stamped and occur during the school day and at night. There are also numerous audio calls that occur after school and at night. In the messages starting March 14, 2023, Russell and Kathy discuss the internal investigation at Indian Trail High School. Russell tells Kathy about the meetings he is having with ITHSA staff and his attorney, and how things are “not good.” Kathy tells Russell which students she knows they are interviewing and tells him to “stay strong.”
On March 16, 2023, at 8:08PM, Russell writes, “I’m telling you…they trying to get your phone records.” Kathy responds, “They aren’t gonna pull them. My momma won’t let them.”
On March 17, 2023, Kathy tells Russell that her mom is going to call Principal Kennow. Russell writes, “I’m just worried that’s he’s gonna say something that makes her turn on me/us…”
On March 20, 2023, at 9:38AM, Russell writes, “I will always be near…even if not in the school…” “Besides…you will be leaving soon…so we gotta figure out what’s next.”
On March 21, 2023, Russell asks Kathy for a picture of herself, which she sends. She is clothed, but is exposing her sports bra. On March 21, 2023, at 7:02PM, Russell writes, “They are probably gonna fire me… Cause I lied about talking to you…they said you knew every thing about my meeting times and everything…you put all this in your statement…” Kathy denies putting anything in her statement regarding Russell’s meetings, and they agree to talk after school.
In reviewing the text messages, the detectives observed a number of text messages from Russell which were concerning and sexual in nature. Russell asks Kathy questions about her relationship with her boyfriend and Kathy describes some of the sexual experiences she has had.
On August 30, 2023, Russell texts, “Hot??? Girl…I would fuck your without break for 4-5 hours!! Every position-eat you out 2-3 times cum at least 3 times!” Russell asks if her boyfriend was her first and then asks if she would “want bigger.” He then writes, “It’s cool…I just hope I’m around when the day comes when you want more…” Russell asks Kathy if she still sleeps naked and to send him a video of her in bed. Kathy does. Russell then says that he “loved” her old videos and that he “misses them terribly.” He asks if she was going to make more videos for him.
Civil Suit In Illinois
A child in Illinois, who is a former member of Mt. Sinai Church in North Chicago, says that Russell groomed her and had sexual intercourse with her over a multi-year span when she was only in 8th grade according to Illinois court documents.
Russell is/was a trustee at the church. The church has another couple of familiar faces – Tamarra Coleman and her husband, Michael are leaders in the church. Michael is an associate minister at Mt. Sinai. In the court documents, it is alleged that the relationship between Russell and the little girl was common knowledge at the church. Tamarra, who was the president of the Kenosha Unified School Board and is the current executive director of the Shalom Center, seemed to deny even knowing Russell. KCE later learned that not only does she know him, but he is her brother-in-law. Russell is married to her sister.
After being confronted with this news, she still denied knowledge of the alleged sexual assaults, but admitted she knew her brother-in-law, but told KCE “knowing someone and knowing their personal business is very different…And sir, the behavior of people I may or may not know do not define me, nor my character!” She wouldn’t tell us why she misled us initially and said she was calling her lawyer. Tamarra reportedly helped her brother-in-law Russell obtain a job at the Kenosha Unified School District in September of 2013.
The Kenosha Unified School district was notified of the allegations about the sexual assaults at the Illinois church in 2021. According to law enforcement records, the HR department kept an eye on Russell and told him not to allow any students to be in his Internet Technology room alone with him. A fellow employee of the High School, however, said that the district wouldn’t enforce this rule, and allowed Russell to have students alone in his room anyway. Russell assigned several girls to be his Teacher’s Assistants (TA’s) even though he didn’t have authority to do this. School staff also didn’t cooperate with the law enforcement investigation in Kenosha. They wouldn’t answer detectives’ questions. Superintendent, Jeff Weiss (D), wouldn’t tell us why he is so weak on sexual assault and harassment allegations in the district.
Russell is currently wanted and will stand trial once he is in custody.