Simon Says

Motivational speaker Russell Simon made a career out of imploring teens to steer clear of drugs and alcohol. So why did he go on a drunken, meth-fueled rampage?

During her opening statements, chief deputy county attorney Amy Reed-Hall quoted Simon's "10 Seconds Can Change Your Life Forever" motivational speech.

"Those are Russell Simon's words," she told the jury, before recounting the night in brutal detail. "The events of May 15 lasted longer than 10 seconds. And they changed not only the life of Russell Simon, but also of Todd Paulson, Pam Wilcox, and her nine-year-old son."

Voss then stood up and introduced his case.

"I'll tell you the reason we haven't spoken in so long," says one of his siblings, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Because everything he's ever said or written about his childhood is a total fabrication."
"I'll tell you the reason we haven't spoken in so long," says one of his siblings, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Because everything he's ever said or written about his childhood is a total fabrication."
A mug shot from prison and a new name - #124938
A mug shot from prison and a new name - #124938

Details

Also: See a letter Russell Simon wrote us from prison to accompany the story.

"What you will find during the course of this trial is that Russell Simon is charged with nine counts because the police rushed to judgment," he said. "The police simply assumed that those who complained the first and loudest were telling the truth."

The state called four witnesses that first day, all law enforcement officers, testifying to the logistics of the arrest. The jury didn't hear of the night's particulars until the next morning when Paulson, wearing jeans and white Reeboks, took the stand and described his squabble with Simon and the subsequent gunshots.

"Did you fear for your life?" asked Reed-Hall.

"Yeah."

"Did you fear for Pam's life?"

"Yeah."

During cross-examination, Voss tried to dispel the notion that Paulson felt threatened.

"Why did you fear for your life?" Voss asked.

"He was shooting at me," answered Paulson. "Wouldn't you fear for your life?"

The following morning, the state called its star witness: Pam Wilcox.

"Why did you go back inside after being shot at?" inquired the prosecution.

"All I could think was that my baby's in there," she weepingly told the jury. "I thought I'd rather be dead childless, so I went back inside."

She entered her nine-year-old son's bedroom to console him. That's when she heard Simon's voice call out from the master bedroom just across the hall.

"You have 10 minutes to get in here and suck my dick or I'm going to put a bullet through both of your heads!"

"What did you do?" asked Reed-Hall.

"I followed the request."

When it was time for Simon to take the stand on day six, the final day of testimony, he swore in with a cup of coffee in his left hand. The audience seated before him was considerably smaller than those he'd grown accustomed to over the previous 14 years. But never before was so much riding on his performance.

Voss asked Simon what happened immediately leading up to his run-in with Paulson.

"I went down to the garage," he said. "The door was closed; I listened."

"Then what happened?"

"I opened the door and saw Todd and Pam kissing," said Simon. "Her right hand was between her legs and his legs."

"How did that make you feel?" asked Voss.

"Angry. Disgusted. Betrayed."

But what about the shots? How could Simon possibly explain the two bullet cartridges investigators uncovered at the scene?

"Paulson had the gun," testified Simon. "He told me to get out. As I walked out, I said, 'Fuck you, bro.' And walked toward the bedroom. That's when the gun went off. I went to the floor."

"Did you have a gun in the bedroom?"

"No, I did not."

"Did you put a gun to Pam's head?"

"No, I did not."

"Did you force her to perform oral sex on you?"

"Absolutely not."

"No further questions."

At one point during cross-examination, Reed-Hall asked Simon about his relationship with Wilcox's son. (Wilcox had testified that Simon had physically abused him.)

"He was such a good kid!" Simon blurted. Suddenly, he broke down and appeared to cry on the stand. He turned to the jury. "You know what's shameful? How these things can get so distorted! I never hurt him! When I grabbed him by the collar it was to tell him I love him!"

He furiously brushed his cheeks and eyes with his right hand. The jury couldn't see any tears.

IT TOOK JURORS A DAY and a half to reach a consensus. Just before 3 p.m. on August 26, the jury filed into the courtroom one last time to render its verdict.

On the first count of attempted murder in the first degree: not guilty.

On the second count of attempted murder in the second degree: not guilty.

But then it happened—a rapid succession of "guilty"s that sealed Simon's fate: guilty of two counts of attempted murder in the second degree; guilty of two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon; and guilty of one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

As the judge polled the jurors to confirm a consensus, Simon's stoic face offered no hint it belonged to a man who had just been doomed to spend up to 35 years behind bars.

As the bailiff escorted Simon back inside the walls, I thought back to what Simon had told me two weeks before the trial.

"This is life or death for me, bro," he had said. "I'm 45 years old now. If I can't see my son, I've got nothing to live for. I'm going to take my own life if I go to prison again. There's no doubt about it."

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