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Marw Albert Trial: 1997

The Tape, Surprise Witness

Defendant: Marv Albert
Crime Charged: Forcible sodomy and assault and battery
Chief Defense Lawyer: Roy Black
Chief Prosecutor: Richard Trodden
Judge: Benjamin Kendrick
Place: Arlington, Virginia
Dates of Trial: September 22-October 24, 1997
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: 1-year suspended sentence

SIGNIFICANCE: A celebrity defendant, steamy sex allegations, and surprise testimony made this one of the most closely watched trials in recent years.

In 1997, Marv Albert was an NBC sportscaster who, for 10 years, had conducted an on-again, off-again relationship with a former telephone operator named Vanessa Perhach. On February 12, 1997, the couple agreed to meet at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. Following the tryst, Albert was arrested and, on September 22, found himself in an Arlington courtroom facing charges of sexual and physical abuse.

At the trial, the state's prosecutor, Richard Trodden, painted Albert as a person with bizarre sexual appetites, who had become violent with Perhach when those cravings went unsatisfied at their Ritz-Carnton meeting.

Not so, according to defense attorney Roy Black. The encounter had been entirely consensual, and these charges were Perhach's way of lashing back at Albert, after he had told her that he intended to marry another woman.

From the prosecution's point of view, everything hinged on Perhach's testimony. Under questioning by Trodden, she described her relationship with Albert as conventional at first, but soon his darker side surfaced and he began pestering her to recruit other men to join them in sexual liaisons, which she did.

On this particular occasion, however, Perhach said she had been unable to obtain the promised third partner. Albert lost his temper. "You've been a bad girl," he said. "You didn't bring anybody." Then he threw her on the bed and began biting her back. When she complained that he was hurting her and told him to stop, Albert refused, saying, "You know you like this.… You enjoy rough sex." Perhach said that Albert next forced her to perform oral sex.

However, during cross-examination by Black, Perhach admitted that she had hugged and kissed Albert—signs of affection, not fear—before she left the hotel room. And why, Black inquired, did she not lock herself in the bathroom and call security if she felt threatened by Albert that night? Either unwilling or unable to respond, Perhach fell silent.

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