Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Marsalis gets life in prison

Sentence follows guilty verdict for 2005 rape

Express Staff Writer

BOISE—Convicted rapist Jeffrey J. Marsalis was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for raping an incapacitated 21-year-old woman in Sun Valley in 2005.

Sentence was pronounced by Senior 5th District Court Judge Daniel Hurlbutt Jr. at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, where Marsalis was found guilty in April by a jury composed of two woman and 10 men. The trial was moved to Ada County by court order because of pretrial publicity in the Wood River Valley.

Marsalis, 35, will be required to spend 15 years of his sentence behind bars before he is eligible for parole. Hurlbutt ordered that the Idaho sentence not start until Marsalis satisfies a 21-year sentence in Pennsylvania for convictions in Philadelphia in 2007 on two counts of sexual assault and one count of unlawful restraint. Marsalis was tried in Philadelphia for allegedly drugging and raping seven women.

Hurlbutt said he had to consider the Pennsylvania convictions in sentencing Marsalis for the Sun Valley rape. The judge further said that he had to consider that the Pennsylvania court determined that Marsalis was a "violent sexual predator."

The judge said he imposed the harsh sentence because of the "great likelihood" of Marsalis' committing other crimes against women. Further, the judge said the facts in the Idaho case show that Marsalis had sex with the woman when she was too intoxicated to refuse.

"It is clear the victim was harmed by your actions," Hurlbutt told the defendant. "This was a matter of grooming the victim. Without question, you did take her clothes off and you did have sexual intercourse with her."

The woman and Marsalis were both employed by Sun Valley Co. when the rape occurred. The woman met Marsalis through her younger sister and agreed to meet him in Ketchum for drinks on Oct. 9, 2005.

The woman gave a "victim's statement" prior to Hurlbutt's pronouncing sentence.

"I have no doubt that if he (Marsalis) wasn't in jail he would be victimizing other woman," she said. "He took advantage of my body while I was unconscious. I don't need to know what he did to me to know what he did was wrong."

The woman further testified that even now she is distrustful of men and has difficulties interacting with other people at work or in social situations.

"It continues to affect my life today," she said. "I had no idea what a monster he would turn out to be. I hope that he will be put away for so long that he will never be able to hurt another woman."

In sentencing, Hurlbutt followed the recommendation of Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas, who said Marsalis used the same methods against women in Pennsylvania that he used against the Idaho victim.

"It is safe to say that Jeffrey destroyed a lot of lives," said Thomas, who told the court that Marsalis was only convicted in Pennsylvania for crimes against three women, but that 11 other women there claimed that he had committed sex crimes against them.

"If the old adage is true—if there's smoke there is fire—then Mr. Marsalis is an inferno," Thomas said. "He's caused a lot of pain and suffering. It's not your garden variety date rape."

Marsalis apologized to the woman and told the court that "I take responsibility for my actions." However, Thomas said the apology was the equivalent of a "hail Mary pass" or "last-ditch effort" on the defendant's part to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

Marsalis spoke briefly to the Idaho Mountain Express during a court recess.

"Mr. Thomas has been saying that I'm the worst criminal in history," Marsalis said. "That's not the case here."

Terry Smith:

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