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Group Sex News | Russell ready to start over

Russell ready to start over

OAKLAND - Inside the Alameda County District Attorney's office are some 10 videotapes that capture the final scenes of Darrell Russell's career with the Oakland Raiders.

The tapes, many filmed by Russell himself, document not the defensive tackle's greatest plays but his bacchanalian adventures of partying and sex, which led to three violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy, a one-year suspension, a rape charge that was dropped for insufficient evidence, a drunk-driving arrest, an unresolved civil lawsuit and finally Russell's release this week by the Raiders.

Russell, 27, who was signed Wednesday by the Washington Redskins, was once considered one of the NFL's premier defensive linemen, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound tackle whose combination of size and speed made him difficult to block in a five-year career with the Raiders. At his all-boys Catholic high school in San Diego, he was regarded not only as a gifted athlete but also as a polite B student who helped out as a teacher's aide. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 3½ years and was the second pick overall in the 1997 NFL draft.

Russell made the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons, but his fall from grace was absolute, a descent that those close to him attribute to his inability to handle an $8.3 million contract and the new friends that came with it. Russell's fate appeared to be sealed by his admission last year that he filmed two of those friends, both convicted felons, having group sex with a then-27-year-old Bay Area property manager at the home of another Raiders player.

Russell and the two men said the sex was consensual. The woman, Oceania Vaillancourt, 29, said she was raped after Russell incapacitated her by spiking her drink with a liquid ''date-rape'' drug. Vaillancourt filed a civil lawsuit in February after Alameda County prosecutors dropped the rape charges, saying they did not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman had been sexually assaulted or that Russell had drugged her.

''It's not a second chance,'' Russell told reporters at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. Wednesday. ''I think it's just a new beginning. You go through life. You have your trials and tribulations. But I feel that no one is faced with anything you can't handle.''

Asked what he had learned, he said: ''I don't really have all day to talk about that. But I've learned enough to be a great football player and a great person -- which I already was, but I can improve on that.''

Russell spent most of his suspension living with his mother in Santa Monica. Michele Eggleton, a high school math teacher and one of Russell's mentors, said Russell ''basically had a sedentary way of life for a while.'' She said Russell's routine for the past year was to spend as much as five hours working out, surf the Internet, attend counseling, talk to his friends by telephone, take walks and ''basically get into a reflective mode to take care of himself.''

Eggleton said Russell is ''in a really, really good place. He has been connected to family and basically stayed away from the elements that could be detrimental to his growth. I've been very impressed at how he's taken over his life and tried to rectify the problems he was working through.''

Russell's precipitous fall was all the more startling considering a background that seems far removed from the life he led in Oakland. He grew up in southeast San Diego with his mother, Eleanor Russell, a hard-working hair dresser who at one point worked out of her garage. She sent Russell to private schools, including St. Augustine High School, an all-boys school with an enrollment of about 600 students. Even then, Russell was a man-child -- 6 feet 4, more than 300 pounds. He played football and basketball and was so strong he once hurled a discus over the fence, striking a parked car.

Eggleton said she first met Russell in her sophomore geometry class. ''One day I was talking about setting goals and trying to work toward goals,'' she said. ''I went around the room and asked people about their goals. Darrell said, 'I want to take care of my mom.' He had me; that was it. He's a very, very kind person. Through all of this mess he's been through, I never, ever for one minute thought he would do anything to hurt another person.''

After high school graduation Russell attended USC, where again he seemed to stand out not only for his power and agility but his intelligence and comportment. He was not yet 21 when the Raiders drafted him.

Russell starred almost from the beginning, but he also began to draw the attention of Raiders officials for his off-the-field behavior. Willie Brown, the Hall of Fame cornerback who serves as the Raiders' director of player development, said he believes that Russell was overwhelmed by getting too much too fast.

Brown said he tried repeatedly to warn Russell about the life he was living and the people he was hanging out with. ''I always tried to stay in his ear,'' Brown said. ''He listened for a while, and the next thing you know it's Friday night.''

Brown was suspended for four games in 2001 for violating the league's substance abuse policy for what turned out to be the second time. In January 2002, he tested positive again, this time for ecstasy, drawing the one-year suspension.

A month later, he went to a San Francisco bar, Harry Denton's Starlight Room, atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. There he met up with Vaillancourt, whom he had been dating casually for a few months. Vaillancourt said in an interview that Russell, while seated with friends, poured her a mixed drink, and after that she recalled only being in a car.

Vaillancourt and Russell ended up at the Alameda home of Raiders linebacker Eric Johnson. Also present were Naeem Perry and Ali Hayes, two men who had befriended Russell over the previous few months. Both had criminal records: Perry served over a year in an Oregon jail on weapons charges; Hayes had been in and out of jail for weapons and drug violations.

Vaillancourt said she does not recall having sex with the two men but that she did not agree to it. ''They drugged and they raped me,'' she said. All three denied the charges.

Vaillancourt went to the hospital the following day, then went to the police. Alameda police suspected she had been given the date-rape drug GHB, a liquid anesthetic developed in Europe to ease the pain of women giving birth. They arrested Russell, Perry and Hayes. As evidence they seized the videotapes, which included not only the encounter between Perry and Hayes but also hours of sex and partying, much of it filmed by Russell. Russell admitted that he had filmed much of Vaillancourt's encounter but said Vaillancourt had agreed to participate.

Alameda County deputy district attorney Kevin Murphy said prosecutors decided to drop the charges because they lacked sufficient evidence. The tape was inconclusive, Murphy said, and Vaillancourt, who went to the hospital 22 hours after the encounter, did not have GHB in her system. The drug normally takes 6-10 hours before it can no longer be detected, he said.

While the case was going on, Russell was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving after leaving a Nevada brothel called the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. After posting $1,205 bail, he went back, according to news accounts.

Russell said Wednesday he knows the Redskins are taking a risk. ''Actually, I think (team owner Daniel) Snyder is taking a big gamble with me because, I mean, look at my past and look at the way everyone views me at this point. Whether they need a d-tackle or not, I think people are on his back as it is. All I can do is be thankful to him and (Coach Steve) Spurrier for giving me this opportunity. I want to take advantage of it as much as possible.''

Full credit for this group sex news article goes to: Monterey County Herald, CA

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