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Houston tycoon’s grandson not guilty of headbutting, biting wife

November 15, 2018

Preston Landon Marshall, the grandson of the late Houston business tycoon J. Howard Marshall, was found not guilty Wednesday after he took the witness stand and strongly denied headbutting and slapping his estranged wife during a domestic fight last year.

Marshall was the star witness in his own defense in a three-day criminal trial that included lavish details of drunken meetings at the Petroleum Club, days at the River Oaks Country Club, exorbitant trips and cash allowances.

Marshall conceded that he bit his estranged wife on the face, but said it was in self-defense because she was biting him during a struggle.

“She bit my hand,” the 45-year-old told jurors in his trial on misdemeanor assault charges. “I reacted and bit her on the jaw.”

Marshall, a former director of the libertarian Cato Institute, is an executive with Rusk Capital Management, He is the grandson of J. Howard Marshall who died here in 1994, at the age of 89. The elder Marshall gained nationwide notoriety after a 14-month marriage to 26-year-old model Anna Nicole Smith. The younger Marshall was involved in the well-publicized and extended lawsuits surrounding his grandfather’s estate.

Robert Scardino, a member of Marshall’s defense team, said the alleged victim’s story simply did not hold water.

“There were too many inconsistencies in the complainant’s statement,” the defense lawyer said after the verdict. “Obviously the proof didn’t reach the level of beyond a reasonable doubt.”

After the verdict, prosecutors said little besides expressing respect for the jury’s decision.

“We genuinely appreciate their attention to the case and the details,” Assistant District Attorney Heather Axline said.

Marshall declined to comment.

During the trial he explained how the couple, which has a history of pushing and shoving, were involved in a late-night altercation when 43-year-old Anastasia Marshall fell on to their bed and he fell on top of her, hitting her forehead with his forehead.

However, prosecutors argued that Marshall came home drunk on May 12, 2017, and turned a verbal altercation into a physical fight.

“If you start the fight, you cannot claim self-defense,” Axline said during closing arguments. “He did not fall on her. He headbutted her, not once, not twice, at least three times.”

Defense lawyers for Marshall told the jury that his wife, a Russian-born immigrant who had been married once before, provoked a fight to get leverage in a divorce.

“She wants things and she knows how to go about getting them and she’s good at it,” attorney Robert Scardino said. “From Mother Russia to a multi-millionairess. And she gets complete control of those children.”

Another defense team member is former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Charlie Baird, who scoffed at Anastasia’s story of continual abuse during their nine-year marriage.

“I don’t know how anyone can claim to be abused when they have a $22,000 a-month allowance,” Baird told jurors. “I don’t know how you’re abused when you’re taking trips to New York, to Moscow, to Disneyland; when you’re part of River Oaks Country Club; when you go to the spa everyday.”

On the night on the fight, the oil and gas executive testified he had been drinking but contended he was not intoxicated when he got home from a dinner at the Petroleum Club.

Dr. Beth Flowers, a retired doctor who sat next to him at the dinner, testified that Marshall arrived late and intoxicated to the formal reception for the boardmembers, and continued to drink during the evening.

“He reeked of alcohol,” she told the jury about his arrival at 7:45 p.m. “His words were slurred and he could not maintain a coherent conversation.”

Flowers said Marshall was one of the honorees and the dinner was postponed for 45 minutes until he arrived. She said he was heading toward the bar in the exclusive club when she left with her husband after the dinner.

Marshall testified he came home around midnight and tried to say good night to his two sleeping daughters. It was a school night, he acknowledged, and his wife got upset.

They started pushing and shoving each other, Marshall testified. They went to another part of the house and screamed at each other, he said. He said she grabbed his clothes and he grabbed her hands.

They ended up falling against the bed, hitting both of their heads. Then, Marshall said his wife bit him on the hand and he bit her on the face.

Then, after Marshall “accidentally” headbutted her, they stopped fighting, agreed things had gone too far and resolved to go to counseling, he testified.

That was on a Thursday night, he said. On Monday morning, she filed for divorce, which is pending.

The misdemeanor trial, in visiting judge Jim Anderson’s court, began Monday.

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