Quick-Change Artist Beats Conviction, at First

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, prosecutor Khan was building his case. It was limited to three women from Marsalis' calendar who pressed charges. The case went to trial in January 2006. (The women declined to speak with ABC News.)

"One of the things that we relied on was the, the overwhelming similarities that victims who do not know each other all relayed," said Khan. "Very, very similar experiences. ... Mr. Marsalis fit the definition of a sexually violent predator."

Defense attorney Kevin Hexstall said one challenge of the case stemmed from his client's severely damaged credibility.

"He's claiming to be the head trauma surgeon at an area hospital, he's claiming to be an astronaut, he's confiding in somebody that he just met that he's involved in the CIA," Hexstall said.

But as the trial moved forward, difficulties for the prosecution began to emerge.

Without physical evidence tying Marsalis to his alleged crimes, the case against him would hinge on the credibility of his accusers.

And as the defense attorney reviewed the accusers' sworn statements, he began to see reason for hope.

"The bottom line is that the stories don't make sense, they don't hold water," Hexstall said.

One accuser had told police she didn't have any contact with Jeffrey after the night she claimed she was raped, Hexstall said. But her phone records told a different story.

"After the third date, she called Jeffrey 24 times," Hexstall said. "They had conversations that lasted up 'til 40 minutes.

"One of the girls, after she was raped, she helped him get an apartment in her building where she's an apartment manager," he said. "And the third girl claimed that after she was raped, she continued to have a consensual sexual relationship with him on a regular basis."

It was a fundamental question that wouldn't go away: Why would these women continue to go out with Marsalis and to have sex with him?

Prosecution of Jeffrey Marsalis Collapses

Former Philadelphia prosecutor Jennifer Long and Dr. Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist, said it's common for victims to deny a date rape ever occurred. They also said many women do go back and continue to date the men, as they try to convince themselves it never happened.

"There are lots of reasons: One of them is an attempt to control the situation," Long said.

Ziv said denial is so much easier when the alleged attacker looks respectable and behaves like a gentleman after the fact.

"The devil doesn't look like the devil all the time," she said. "He can look like a normal human being."

But the jury never heard anything about how some rape victims do things to convince themselves it never happened, because Pennsylvania law specifically prohibits expert testimony about that psychology.

Had experts been allowed to testify about victim behavior, "it would have given the jury the proper context to then judge the victims," Long said.

Without that expert testimony, the prosecution's case collapsed. Jeffrey Marsalis was acquitted on all counts.

"And he had this, this smile on his face -- this horribly smug smile on his face -- well, when they announced the acquittal," Rovell said.

But authorities had a surprise in store. Since first arresting Marsalis, investigators had found several more women ready to press charges against "Dr. Jeff." And just as Marsalis was preparing to walk out of court a free man, he was arrested again.

Page
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...