Love County Sheriff Resigns Amid Corruption Charges

A longtime Love County Sheriff accused of corruption and willful neglect of duty has resigned from office some three months after his arrest on corruption charges.

Joe Russell, 62, was arrested and charged in July, but he did not remove himself from office until he voluntarily suspended himself--with pay--in August. Now, amid removal proceedings, Russell has officially resigned as sheriff of Love County, where he has served since 2000.

Russell is accused of a number of wrongdoings as sheriff, including harboring a fugitive and knowingly allowing his son to use and deal methamphetamine from inside his home.

Russell's son, Willie Russell, was arrested in May 2015 after selling drugs to an undercover police officer. Willie Russell was convicted in August and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison.

During the time Willie Russell was living with his father in Leon, the sheriff is accused of harboring a fugitive at his home. That fugitive was Sara Bamburg, a woman with four warrants out for her arrest. Bamburg was dating Russell's son. According to the woman, Willie Russell told her that she was safe from arrest as long as she was living with him. Bamburg eventually broke up with the younger Russell and moved out. She was arrested three days later.

Russell is also accused of maladministration of duty for letting a Love County jail inmate visit with family members unsupervised in a deputy's office where evidence is stored. The inmate, James Conn Nipp, is believed to be connected to a missing persons case. In that case, Nipp was driving a vehicle that led police on a high speed chase. His passengers, Misty Miller, 17, and Colt Haynes, 21, disappeared during the chase and have not been seen or heard from in the past three years. Nipp is Russell's nephew.

Now that Russell has resigned as sheriff, the removal proceedings are no longer necessary; however, he still faces criminal charges, and he is under investigation for possible involvement in his son's drug case.

Love County Undersheriff Harvey Stewart will remain the interim sheriff until a new sheriff takes office in January.

Image credit: Keith Allison

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