A man who told his dates tall tales of being a doctor, astronaut and spy was convicted Wednesday of two counts of sexual assault but found not guilty of raping seven women, who all told similar stories of blacking out or becoming unusually intoxicated during dates from 2003 to 2005.
Jeffrey J. Marsalis, 34, of Philadelphia, had been accused of raping seven women, six of whom he met through the online dating site Match.com. He was acquitted of eight counts of rape and the jury couldn't reach a consensus on a ninth rape count.
The jury reached its verdict on the fifth day of deliberations that were so contentious that jurors were overheard shouting at each other earlier this week.
Prosecutors said Marsalis, a smooth talker with a tony address and a penchant for chic bars and restaurants, spun tales about being an emergency room doctor, an astronaut, a Secret Service agent and a CIA killer. Authorities alleged that in reality, the on-and-off nursing student, who also faces rape charges in Idaho, was a rapist who slipped something in his dates' drinks to incapacitate them.
The women, most of them well-educated professionals, told strikingly similar stories during the 2 1/2-week trial of meeting Marsalis and then feeling unusually intoxicated after returning from the bathroom or letting him buy a round of drinks from the bar.
They testified they woke up hours later at his apartment — groggy, sometimes undressed — after an apparent sexual encounter or even amid intercourse.
Marsalis' lawyer said the women were suffering from "buyer's remorse" after being duped about his accomplishments and dumped after consensual sex. Defense attorney Kathleen E. Martin said none of the victims went to police or a hospital afterward and were only sought out by police as part of an earlier case against Marsalis.
All told, Marsalis was acquitted of nearly three dozen charges, including a count of impersonating a public servant. Several of his accusers in the courtroom wept quietly as the verdicts were read.
"We're very pleased with the verdict and we're very happy for Jeffrey and his family," Martin said outside the courthouse. "The message is ... the truth can come out."
The two sex-assault convictions are felonies and Marsalis could be given a maximum 20-year prison sentence for them. He will be sentenced Sept. 18 and must undergo an assessment to determine how strictly he will be monitored under the state's Megan's Law.
"We're pleased that the jury recognized that Mr. Marsalis is not the wrongly accused man he claimed to be," Assistant District Attorney Joseph Khan said. "He is a criminal. He is a sex offender."
Impersonated a doctor, woman says
In one case in which he was convicted of sexual assault, the victim — a neighbor of Marsalis — testified that he visited her in the hospital, donning a stethoscope and a hospital ID, and checked her medical chart. After she was discharged, she testified that Marsalis came into her apartment and raped her.
In the second case, the victim testified that she was on a date with Marsalis and felt herself blacking out after drinking a beer, then awoke to find him having sex with her. She testified she told him to stop because she was in pain but he did not.
Prosecutors, along with the victim, will decide whether to request a retrial on the one count in which the jury was hung, Khan said.
Marsalis was acquitted of three similar assaults in January 2006 and immediately charged in the latest cases.
Another rape charge is pending against him in Sun Valley, Idaho.
In the Idaho case, police said the woman did go to a hospital the next day. The alleged assault occurred in October 2005, while Marsalis was awaiting trial in the first Philadelphia case.
Records show Marsalis has moved frequently, having lived in Park City, Utah; Kent, Wash.; Cave Creek, Ariz., where he worked as a paramedic; and Broward County, Fla.