On the January 19th episode of the wildly popular podcast “Guys We F****d: The Anti Slut-Shaming podcast”, comedians Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson read an open letter penned to Greene County, MO Sheriff Jim Arnott by a woman named Erica Russell.
The letter begins:
“Dear Mr. Arnott, my name is Erica Russell, and I am a victim of the Greene County jail. I say “victim” because what you are doing to people in there is well outside the scope of anything anyone could call “law enforcement”. It’s more like sadistic third-world torture. Anyone could google your history of corruption and quickly agree.”
The lengthy message goes on to describe the bizarre arrest and 10-hour detainment of Russell, where she alleges physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Green County officers. At one point, she was forced to remove her clothing and only given a shirt to wear while the bottom half of her body was completely exposed.
Listen to the full audio below.
Warning: Explicit language and detailed descriptions of abuse
Reactions to Russell’s letter were swift. Scathing one-star reviews clogged the Green County Sheriff’s Facebook page along with angry phone calls and e-mails to his office.
All the while, Sheriff Jim Arnott, seemingly unfazed by the allegations, told the Springfield News-Leader: “I reviewed her entire stay here at the county jail”. He said that the recordings are not public record and could not comment specifically on what they show.
He added, “She did stay for several hours. The only thing I can tell you, is that the things stated in her letter are not true”.
On January 23rd, Arnott tweeted a public invitation to Erica to come to the station and review the tapes with him if she so pleased. At the time, Russell had not yet filed an official complaint against the Green County Sheriff’s Office, which would then start the process of making the recordings public record.
Russell has repeatedly called on Sheriff Arnott to produce the tapes. In an e-mail, she stated to me “every single bit of what I wrote is true, and he absolutely would have seen that if he watched those tapes. So either he didn’t even bother to do it, or he’s going to find a way—or already has—to simply get rid of the evidence.”
Erica is adamant on not just getting the official complaint filed to make the tapes public record, but also suing the Green County Sheriff’s office over the incident.
“It’s not that I even really want some kind of “revenge” or last word, or to make a political statement. It’s really and truly that I know what happened to me, and I cannot in good conscience sit by and pretend like it didn’t and just go let it happen to some other poor woman or man”, Erica told me in an e-mail on March 3rd.
She goes on, “I can tell you that at least half of any money I would acquire in winning a lawsuit would go directly toward building a domestic violence shelter for women in Springfield, MO”.
Sheriff Jim Arnott is no stranger to corruption and because he has been in office for so long, his power only gets checked every few years. Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common, but do not get the attention and justice they deserve. We need to hold our elected officials at all levels accountable.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird