In the bizarre world of Jeffrey Marsalis, on trial accused of drugging and date-raping seven women, he was a deadly secret agent with close ties to President Bush, according to his former fiancee.
Jessika Rovell, 30, told a Common Pleas Court jury today that Marsalis, who is now 34:
- Owned a 9mm Beretta pistol, which he named "Priscilla," and would "talk to it as if he were Elvis."
- Killed people for the CIA, including a friend who went through secret-agent training, flunked out, and had to be killed on Marsalis' order because "he knew too much."
- Had a helicopter on standby in case he needed to be flown to the White House.
- Called her to report that he was crawling around in caves in Afghanistan hunting terrorists.
- Trained as an astronaut so he would have something to do "after he was done killing people with the CIA."
Except for the bit about talking to his pistol, none of it was true, Rovell said she learned after they ended their nearly three-year relationship in October 2004.
What she also didn't know was that Marsalis was going out on dates with women he met through Match.com and with a woman who lived in his Center City apartment building.
Prosecutors allege that during those dates, he drugged their drinks and then raped them.
Some courtroom observers had to stifle laughter as Rovell testified about Marsalis' claims.
"You believed all of that?" asked Kevin Hexstall, one of Marsalis' lawyers.
"Yes, I did," said Rovell, now a Center City lawyer and an intelligence officer with the Naval Reserve.
Rovell, who met Marsalis when she was a law student and before she joined the Navy, explained that he had ID cards, badges and "classified" documents to make everything seem legitimate.
Initially, she testified, Marsalis said he was an emergency room resident at three hospitals, including Hahnemann University Hospital.
"He was always dressed in scrubs," she said.
She described their repeated visits to Hahnemann, freely roaming the halls, eating in the cafeteria, hanging out in the medical library, and once visiting the cadaver lab.
"We spent a lot of time in Hahnemann Hospital," she said.
He was never flagged by hospital security or personnel as being a phony, she said.
A spokesman for Hahnemann could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Marsalis later told her the doctor gig was a cover for his spy work, Rovell said.
He also claimed to be "attached" to the Naval Reserve as a commander. He had a flight jacket with a name tag that read "F.S. Marsalis."
Marsalis said that meant "flight surgeon."
Rovell later learned that the letters were the initials of Forrest Smith Marsalis, the defendant's father.
Prosecutors presented the flight jacket in court, as well as Marsalis' hospital scrubs, white lab coat, paramedic bags, and "Priscilla," the Beretta.
Prosecutors projected photographs for the jury of Marsalis' phony Hahnemann badge, images of the CIA seal that he kept on his computer, and a photograph of him in an astronaut suit.
Rovell explained that the picture was taken at Cape Canaveral in Florida at a tourist attraction.
She said he had read to her over the phone what he claimed to be an acceptance letter for astronaut training. He also got a pair of shorts with the NASA symbol that he said was available only to astronauts.
Hexstall, in a sarcastic tone, questioned how Rovell could believe it all, including his CIA exploits.
She noted that he gave her a pin that he said only CIA agents get.
Hexstall cracked: "Kind of like NASA shorts that only astronauts get."
Marsalis' defense lawyers argue that all his sexual encounters were consensual, and now that the women have discovered that he was a fraud, they are exacting revenge with false allegations.