By Ben Lane, TSB Staff
Disclaimer: The following story from Thursday’s public testimony in David Allen Russell’s sexual assault trial contains witness descriptions of alleged misconduct by the former McKinney chiropractor. Some of these allegations are extremely graphic in nature but are also vital to the case being heard this week at the Collin County Courthouse.
Emotional testimony from the two remaining alleged victims of former McKinney chiropractor David Allen Russell highlighted the fourth day of Russell’s criminal trial. Jurors heard Thursday from the two remaining victims and members of their families about the alleged sexual misconduct that took place in Russell’s office at his chiropractic clinic.
Russell faces 13 felony charges of sexual misconduct from incidents with five former patients, as Collin County prosecutors continued laying out the state’s case in front of Judge John Roach at the Collin County Courthouse.
Thursday’s early testimony focused on one particular victim, who had not yet been discussed in court. The girl, age 15, testified about an incident in Russell’s office that took place when she was in second grade. The jury also heard from the girl’s mother and the girl’s therapist. The therapist testified that she has seen the victim for many years because the girl has social and cognitive issues as well as “severe learning disabilities.” The therapist also said that the girl was in special needs classes in school.
The victim tearfully said that during a treatment when she was in second grade, Russell violated her rectally with his finger over her underwear but that he pushed so hard that he broke her tailbone. She said he also placed his hand on her breast at the same time. The girl’s mother said that she was not present at the appointment because her grandmother took the girl to Russell’s office without the mother’s permission. She said that she confronted Russell’s office staff when she found out that her daughter had been there without her permission.
The victim’s mother said that she tried to ask her daughter about what happened at Russell’s office but was unsuccessful. She said that the incident upset her daughter greatly, so she didn’t try to talk to her any more about it.
She said all that changed when she saw that Russell had been arrested for the initial sexual assault charges against him. She said that she took her daughter to her therapist and told the therapist that she feared that something might have happened on the day that the girl’s grandmother took her to see Russell.
Both the therapist and the girl’s mother (who was present during the therapy session) said that they heard the girl say what Russell had done to her. The girl emotionally recalled the events of that day to the jury Thursday. At one point, she had to stop to take a break because she was so upset.
Later, she said that after her tailbone was broken, “ I couldn’t sit or sleep because it made me cry a lot.”
She also said that she was scared of chiropractors now and was scared of “him.”
Collin County Prosecutor Shannon Miller also called Dr. Oliver Smith to the stand. Dr. Smith stated that he has been a licensed chiropractor for 37 years and is past President of the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners. He said that he also currently serves as the Secretary of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. He said that he is the team physician for the University of Texas El Paso football team, has done “over 300,000” adjustment in his career and treats patients ranging from babies to professional athletes.
Dr. Smith testified that there would never be any need to go under a victim’s underwear or contact their genitals during the course of treatment. Russell stands accused of doing both of those things with his former patients, three of whom testified to that on Tuesday and Wednesday. Asked by Miller if he would ever see a need to go under someone’s underwear, Smith said, “Not in my 37 years, have I ever seen any indications of that nor would I consider that at all.”
He also said that he is unaware of any chiropractic technique that would require the placement of a finger inside a patient’s vagina to massage a muscle, as Russell is accused of doing. “That’s not an acceptable technique,” he said. He also said that he asked several colleagues and none of them had heard of that type of treatment either.
He also said that there we be no need to have a patient disrobe or remove their clothing for any of the treatments that Russell was preforming on the alleged victims. Several of the alleged victims have testified that Russell would remove their clothing before treatment.
He also said there would be no need to touch a patient’s breasts to work on a rib cage injury. One victim alleges that Russell touched her breasts repeatedly while treating a rib injury.
Smith said that for any circumstance where he may be close to the genitals of a young patient, he would make sure the patient’s mom or her dad are in that room with him. “I always make sure I have an assistant in there with me as well,” he said. Several of the alleged victims have testified that they were alone in the room with Russell when the incidents occurred.
Miller asked Smith if, in the course of his career, he had ever come in contact with a female patient’s genitals. “No, I have not,” he said.
Smith said that he always “drapes” his patients by placing a towel over their genitals so as to protect against any kind of unwanted contact. “Draping is the same no matter whether you’re eight years old or a world-class athlete.”
Smith said of his patients, “Trust is important. They need to know that they can trust you.”
The final witness of the day was the last of the alleged victims. The woman, 27, said that she began to see Russell in 1998 and saw him until 2008. She said that both her parents were patients of Russell’s and that they “considered him to be a family friend,” whom they called “Dr. Dave.”
“I trusted him,” she said. “He knew my whole family.”
She said that she was 15 when she began to see Russell alone. She said that her mother would wait in the waiting room or drop her off for her appointments. She said that at that time, Russell began to put his hand on her breast, over her shirt, to work on her ribs. She said that she trusted Russell’s treatment even though the treatment made her uncomfortable. “If he thought that my ribs were affecting my neck, then I trusted his judgment,” she said.
She said that she developed late and that it made her self-conscious when he touched her in that region. She also said that it was painful for her when he moved his fingers on her still-developing breast tissue.
She said that at the time, she assumed it was a legitimate treatment and that Russell was a trusted family friend. “I assumed I was more self-conscious than the average patient,” she said.
She later testified that over the course of her time seeing Russell, he continued to touch her breasts, first under her shirt and over the bra and eventually under the bra as well.
She said that she went to work for Russell in the summer of 2002 and the abuse continued during the time she worked for him.
She also said that during that time, Russell began to work on the alignment of her hips and that occasionally he would contact her vagina over her pants.
She said that that level of contact also progressed, and eventually he placed his hands down her pants and made direct contact with her vagina with both his palm and his fingers.
She said that in 2005, Russell placed his finger inside of her vagina, saying that she “vividly recalled it happening one time.”
She said that she felt trapped and panicked, but that she didn’t say anything because she trusted Russell.
She said that during their appointments, Russell would say that she was pretty or wonder why she didn’t have a boyfriend. She said that despite all of these incidents, she didn’t stop seeing Russell because “he was someone I’d known since my childhood and I assumed these were normal practices.”
A large portion of her testimony was devoted to her medical charts, obtained from Russell’s office. She claimed that a large portion of her records from 2005 were missing. She said that she saw Russell often in the fall of 2005 but there were no records of those visits in her charts. It was during that time that she said that Russell sexually assaulted her.
There was also a picture of her from her junior prom on the back of one of the pages of her chart but she said that neither she nor any member of her family gave the picture to Russell.
She also came forward once Russell was initially arrested because she said that she finally realized that what he did was wrong. She also stated the alleged assaults had a lasting effect on her life, stating that she’s uncomfortable with her husband’s hand being near her groin area, even when they’re being intimate.
The trial recommences at 8 a.m. on Friday at the Collin County Courthouse.
The State of Texas vs. David Russell
Jury selection and opening statements were held Monday, April 15. If you’re interested in following this trial but missed earlier stories from the witness testimony, you can click to read them below.