By A.J. FLICK
James Allen Selby denies he is a serial rapist who attacked six midtown females, but he believes he will be convicted of the crimes in June.
Selby is aware of the publicity his case has generated in Tucson, none of which is in his favor.
“I think that there’s so much media attention, there’s no possible way that I’m going to get a jury that isn’t tainted,” Selby said in a 90-minute jailhouse interview with the Tucson Citizen last week.
Selby also is accused of attacking a 9-year-old girl in Norman, Okla., in September 1999; a 12-year-old girl in Sparks, Nev., in April 2001; and four women in San Diego, Calif., between July and September 2001.
“I have not done any of those,” he said, referring to the Tucson attacks. “I have not done any of the ones in other states.”
Last year, Selby was convicted of raping a 55-year-old Colorado woman in July 2002 and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. At trial, Selby said he had consensual sex with the woman, who denied it.
Colorado law prevents prosecutors from discussing sex crime case details even after the trial. Trial records are sealed in sex crime cases as well.
This isn’t Selby’s first court appearance in Pima County. In 1998, he stood trial in Pima County Superior Court, charged with attempted sexual assault, aggravated assault and kidnapping.
Selby testified that he and the victim, a co-worker, were having an affair. The woman said they were friends and Selby was seeking advice on his failed marriage when he turned violent.
Selby was acquitted of the sex charge, aggravated assault and kidnapping, but convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to one month of probation.
The five recent Tucson cases might be consolidated into one trial, which is set to begin June 1. If convicted, Selby could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“I feel they’re going to get their convictions just because people don’t understand how DNA works,” Selby, 37, said.
“This is a high-profile case. My feeling is, the jury is just going to say, ‘We can’t figure this out. We should just convict him of all.’”
Judge Jan Kearney urged Selby to reconsider, but granted his request to represent himself.
“I have so many cases in so many states that I’m picking and choosing the ones to retain (a lawyer) and the ones not to,” Selby said, adding that he doesn’t qualify for a public defender. He claims to have $18,000 in a bank account and said he makes $1,500 a month from an Internet business he started two years ago.
“My thought is, I’ll just sit there and go whatever, whatever, whatever. No arguments from me because you’re going to rule against me anyway,” he said.
Police and prosecutors investigating Selby are unwilling to discuss the evidence because the cases are still open. But DNA plays a part in the case against him.
According to newspaper accounts, when Norman police submitted DNA from a 1999 case to the FBI database, it matched the unsolved San Diego and Tucson cases. Tucson police learned that Selby was a suspect in Norman and Sparks.
Sparks police collected DNA evidence off a toothbrush and razor from an apartment Selby abandoned and matched it to the 2001 assault on the 12-year-old.
Immediately after his arrest in Colorado, the Pima County Attorney’s Office sought Selby’s extradition, based on the DNA match from the Sparks case, because the Colorado DNA profile was incomplete at that time.
But Selby maintains his DNA profile could not have existed before his arrest in Colorado.
“First of all, there’s nothing to say that that was my toothbrush and my razor,” Selby said. “I’m an immaculate person. I’m a clean freak. I use toilet paper to scrub my cell floor down because I don’t have cleaning supplies in there. I have probably the cleanest cell up there.
“For them to suggest that I left items behind that they could find that stuff in is crazy.”
As his own attorney, Selby has the right to interview the state’s witnesses, including victims. However, under the Victims Bill of Rights, victims in all these cases have declined to be interviewed, Deputy County Attorney Bradley Roach said.
Selby may still question the victims at trial, but Roach said he will “ask for the appropriate safeguards” to protect the victims. That might include preventing Selby from approaching the witness stand. It’s up to the judge to set the rules, Roach said.
Victims in criminal trials are aided by members of the county’s Victim Witness program who prepare them for the trial process and offer guidance on handling the stress.
“It’s difficult for any victim when they have to testify,” Bruce Geiger of Victim Witness said. “Just having the defendant at the table across the room from them is traumatizing.”
It’s unusual for defendants to act as their own attorney, Roach said, “But it does happen.”
This week, a child sexual assault trial began in Superior Court in which the defendant, Jeffrey Veta, represented himself, Roach said. While Selby’s outlook of his Tucson trial is dim, he said strong evidence supports his innocence.
“I want so much to lash out and slam them,” he said, referring to prosecutors.
Several times during the interview, Selby started to say something but held back, knowing the information could be used by the prosecution. He said discussing certain things wouldn’t prevent the trial.
“But I want to. I’m screamin’ inside. This is the first time I’ve spoken (to a reporter) in almost two years.”
Selby said he agreed to be interviewed because “I’m angry. I have become increasingly more violent in here, to the point that I know they’re going to take this personal, and it isn’t personal.”
Roach and Selby use the same evidence – descriptions of the victims, the attacker and other information gathered in police reports – to argue whether the crimes were committed by one person, the so-called “Midtown Rapist.”
In police reports, the height of the attacker ranges from 5 foot 5 to 6 feet. Selby is 5 foot 9.
Selby said he chopped his hair off because one victim said the attacker had curly hair an inch and a half long. When his hair gets to that length, Selby said, he’ll prove his hair is straight.
In court documents, Roach points to a single attacker because the victims were females younger than 30 who were surprised and assaulted in their homes from October 2001 through May 2002. Other similarities include using knives to threaten and assault, telling victims not to scream or they would be killed or hurt, grabbing victims by the throat and telling sexual assault victims they came home “too soon,” court records show.
Evidence against Selby includes a hand-written confession given to Colorado officials that reads “I have committed the crimes listed in these case numbers below,” listing Tucson Police Department documents.
Selby said he was being “facetious” when he wrote the confession. Because it doesn’t contain details of the cases, it’s “a hollow confession, an empty confession,” he said.
When the Colorado detective asked for details, Selby said he told her, “I’d have to have been there to give you the details.”
“I didn’t even know what these case numbers were,” Selby said last week. “She read them off to me.”
PHOTO CAPTION: XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
James Allen Selby is escorted from the Pima County Jail.