Rapist of lesbian seeks evidentiary hearing

Jeffrey J. Marsalis

Jeffrey J. Marsalis, who sexually assaulted three women in the region before traveling to Idaho and raping a lesbian in that state, maintains he’s wrongfully imprisoned. He recently asked a federal judge to hold an evidentiary hearing on his alibi that he was in Park City, Utah on the day one of his victims testified he assaulted her in Philadelphia.

According to court records, Marsalis sexually assaulted three women in the Philadelphia area between 2003-05, prior to raping a lesbian in Sun Valley, Idaho in October 2005. 

In 2007, a Philadelphia jury convicted Marsalis of two counts of sexual assault and he pleaded no contest to one count of unlawful restraint. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Steven R. Geroff sentenced Marsalis to 10 1/2 to 21 years in state prison. Marsalis subsequently was convicted of raping an Idaho lesbian and sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison, to be served in Idaho after he completes his Pennsylvania sentence.

But in federal appellate papers, Marsalis contends he was in Park City, Utah on Jan. 2, 2004, which is the day one of his local victims — identified in court papers as “A.A.” — testified he assaulted her. 

Marsalis has asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol Wells to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding his alibi, arguing that his imprisonment is a “miscarriage of justice.”

Marsalis’ father, Forrest Marsalis, submitted a declaration to the court, corroborating his son’s alibi. Forrest Marsalis’ declaration asserts that his son visited him in Park City, Utah for two weeks, beginning Jan. 2, 2004.

Judge Wells recently ordered Marsalis to provide as much “documentary evidence” as possible in support of his father’s declaration.

Marsalis contends his trial attorneys were ineffective in 2007 when they failed to present his Utah alibi to Philadelphia jurors.  “[Marsalis] is entitled to a hearing on the question of whether his trial attorneys were ineffective for not investigating and presenting the alibi defense,” according to a December 2019 defense brief. “A hearing is especially necessary when, as here, there are unresolved, disputed, and genuine issues of material fact. Federal law mandates an evidentiary hearing where the merits of the factual dispute weren’t resolved in the state hearing.”

In court papers, prosecutors blasted Marsalis’ Utah alibi. “The record shows that, at every turn, [Marsalis] has consistently failed to offer up any shred of evidence that might support his alibi claim. Indeed, he affirmed under oath at trial that he had made his own informed, voluntary decision that he did not wish to present any evidence or call any witnesses on his own behalf,” prosecutors wrote.

Marsalis, 46, remains incarcerated at a state prison in Marienville, Pa. He’s not permitted to apply for parole until 2022.  If Marsalis is paroled in Pennsylvania, he’s expected to serve at least 15 years in prison in Idaho, where he was convicted of raping a lesbian, identified as “Jody,” in court papers.

Cameron Kline, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment regarding Marsalis’ request for an evidentiary hearing.  “Unfortunately, because this is an open and active case we cannot comment,” Kline said in a March 13 email.

Michael Wiseman, an attorney for Marsalis, said in a March 13 email: “Thanks for your interest but we have no comment.”

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.