A man charged with trying to kidnap and sexually assault two women claimed innocence during a jailhouse interview with NBC Bay Area on Wednesday.
David Lee Russell said he had no idea he was a wanted man, and was bewildered by the accusations. Speaking through a glass partition at the Santa Clara County Jail, the convicted sex offender seemed determined to give his side of the story. His answers about the alleged attacks were emotional, but often contradictory.
"I don't know if this helps or not,” Russell said before his court appearance Wednesday. “I'm just telling the truth."
San Jose police captured the 56-year-old near Oakland Road on Tuesday, after he was spotted by residents, despite shaving his beard and goatee.
Police said he tried to kidnap two young women in separate incidents within the past two weeks. The first incident, dated Aug. 29, occurred near Meridian and Hamilton avenues, and the second, on Sept. 1, was in the area of Hillsdale and Narvaez avenues, according to police.
Despite a rap sheet that includes violent assaults against women, Russell told NBC Bay Area that those were “friendly” encounters.
“You have to physically take them and put them in a van – then you did something. That's kidnapping, right?” he said. “If you go to talk to somebody and you walk away, that's not kidnapping. That's not an attempt."
But Russell backed off from an earlier statement that he never had any physical contact with the victims.
"I think I might have hugged her, but that's the part I don't remember,” he said. It remains unclear which woman he was referring to.
Russell also said he didn't shave to try to elude police.
"I don't like gray hair,” he said, insisting that he wasn’t trying to alert his appearance to give police the slip.
“I didn't even know any of this was going on,” he claimed.
Further, Russell seemed stunned about the fact that he had a court date Wednesday. When asked if he had an attorney and was ready, Russell replied: "I'm not even ready for this."
But prosecutor Michel Amaral scoffed at Russell's recounting of the events after charging him with kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual offense.
"Both of the victims are women he did not know,” Amaral said. “He encountered them on the street, and after following them for some period of time, he put a sweatshirt over their heads and tried to drag them into his car."
However, the man in question disagreed.
"I never tried to do anything that they said,” Russell said. “I never tried to take nobody in my car. Ever. "
The prosecutor said he will seek a life sentence for Russell, who is a "second striker" and a "repeat customer" in the prison system, according to California Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Sessa.
He was sentenced in 1992 to four years in prison after being convicted of assault with intent to commit a sexual act and was discharged in August 1995, records show. He was sentenced against in July 2008 to four years on the same charge, along with two years for false imprisonment, three years for sexual battery and failure to register as a sex offender. He was discharged from prison in July 2013, and discharged from parole in March.
Russell is being held without bail and is scheduled to return to court in a week.