Published: Thursday, June 14, 2007
Rape charges dismissed in Match.com trial
The defendant met six of the seven women through the online dating service.
PHILADELPHIA A common pleas court jury found Jeffrey Marsalis accused of drugging and raping seven women whom he met on Match.com guilty Wednesday of two counts of sexual assault but innocent of a slew of rape charges involving all the accusers. The jurors failed to reach a verdict on one count of rape.
Marsalis, 34, faces up to 20 years in prison for the two sexual assault counts. He remains held without bail until his sentencing Sept. 18. He also faces a drugging and rape case in Idaho.
Prosecutor Joseph Khan said a federal investigation of Marsalis is ongoing and urged anyone with information about other possible crimes to contact the FBI.
The jury informed the court it had reached a verdict after 1 1/2 hours of deliberation Wednesday morning. It was the fifth day of deliberations.
Shortly after 1 p.m., the jury foreman was read a list of 35 counts, including 25 rape counts, including forcible rape, rape of an unconscious person and rape by substantial impairment.
When the jury foreman announced the first "not guilty," Marsalis, dressed in an olive green suit, rolled his eyes upward. After the third "not guilty," he began to blink rapidly. But when the foreman announced the first "guilty" for sexual assault, he gulped.
One of the reported victims gazed down with a sad expression when Marsalis was found innocent of everything involving her. The woman, who is now a lawyer, later sobbed quietly as the jury's decision was repeated.
One juror, a young white male, repeatedly looked at the woman and seemed distressed.
Afterward, jurors declined to comment as they rushed from the Criminal Justice Center near city hall.
"This is a 100-percent victory," said defense attorney Kathleen Martin outside the courthouse as she answered questions with co-counsel Kevin Hexstall before a media throng.
Martin said the jury rejected the prosecution's theory about Marsalis being a sexual predator who sought vulnerable women and then drugged and raped them.
Hexstall said the two sexual assault convictions were lesser charges that the district attorney's office almost always throws into a rape case if the rape charges do not hold up.
"I think he was wrongly convicted, but I respect the jury's decision," Hexstall said.
Martin said Marsalis "was pleased with the jury's hard work."
Prosecutor Khan, meanwhile, said the prosecution was "pleased that the jury recognized that Mr. Marsalis is a criminal, a sexual offender."
He praised the seven women for "courageously" coming forward to testify against Marsalis.
Khan said each count of sexual assault carries a maximum 10 years in state prison. Marsalis will undergo an assessment to see if he is a sexually violent predator and will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The jury of eight women and four men began deliberating last Thursday after 2 1/2 weeks of testimony highlighted by the appearances of the seven women who accused Marsalis of drugging and raping them. The assaults occurred from 2003 to 2005, they said.
Marsalis who posed as a trauma surgeon, CIA killer, Secret Service agent and astronaut was alleged to have used some of his phony credentials on Match.com to lure women into dates, during which he slipped a drug into their drinks.
He met six of the seven women through the online dating service.
The women did not immediately report the alleged rapes or go to a hospital to be examined. All of them, however, did at some later point confide to someone that they had been raped but decided not to come forward.
They were ultimately contacted by authorities who were investigating Marsalis.