Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Philadelphia rape suspect faces local charge

Allegations are similar, but differences exist in the two cases

Express Staff Writer

Jeffrey J. Marsalis

A Blaine County criminal case against Jeffrey J. Marsalis is similar to date rape charges he faced in Pennsylvania, but noteworthy differences exist between the two cases.

Marsalis, 34, was convicted on two counts of sexual assault last week in Philadelphia, but a jury found him not guilty on multiple charges of rape. He had been accused of drugging and raping seven women in a case that has received national attention.

In the Philadelphia case, all the women testified that they stayed in contact or met socially with Marsalis after the alleged rapes occurred, and none of the women reported the alleged crimes to authorities until months later.

In the Blaine County case, the woman reported the alleged crime almost immediately. Marsalis was promptly arrested and two days after the alleged incident was brought into 5th District Court in Hailey where he was charged with felony rape. He was later indicted by a Blaine County grand jury on the same charge.

Furthermore, court records quote Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas as saying that the alleged victim was a "lesbian" who "did not intend to have sex that night."

Testimony in the Philadelphia case showed that six of those alleged victims met Marsalis through, an online dating service.

The Blaine County case originated on Oct. 9, 2005, when Marsalis allegedly drugged and raped the woman, then 21, at a condominium in Sun Valley.

A press release issued at the time by the Sun Valley Police Department reports that Marsalis had been with the woman at a bar in Ketchum the evening before the alleged crime occurred.

Later, "she had experienced sudden loss of memory, impairment inconsistent with the amount of alcohol consumed, blacking out for an extended period of time, waking up feeling something had happened and short flashes of memory about the incident," the press release states. "All of those experiences are consistent with having ingested a date-rape-type drug," the press release continues.

Court records state that Marsalis told authorities after he was arrested that he was unemployed and lived with his mother in Carey. The records also say his father is a commercial airline pilot who lives in Phoenix, Ariz.

The defendant further reported that he had last worked in May 2005 when he was a firefighter and paramedic with the city of Philadelphia.

That claim might be questionable. News media accounts about the Philadelphia case have reported that Marsalis also claimed at various times to be a CIA agent, an astronaut or a trauma surgeon, when in reality he was a part-time nursing student.

It remains uncertain whether Marsalis will be tried in Blaine County. A decision is not likely until after he is sentenced on Sept. 18 in Philadelphia, where he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Public information on the status of the Blaine County case is further clouded because the prosecuting attorney's office is barred by court order from talking to news reporters about the case. Local police and defense attorneys can't talk about it either because of a "gag order" issued by the court on Oct. 21, 2005.

Hailey attorney Douglas Nelson, who is representing Marsalis on the local charge, requested the gag order, arguing that public comments by local authorities on the charges in Philadelphia could be prejudicial against his client. The prosecuting attorney's office didn't oppose the motion, and Magistrate Judge R. Ted Israel granted it.

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