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Sportscaster makes grudging apology, avoids jail

October 24, 1997

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Marv Albert was spared a jail sentence Friday after a grudging courtroom apology to the woman he bit during a sexual romp.

`I’m sorry if she felt she was harmed,″ the former NBC sportscaster said at a sentencing where he could have gotten a year in jail. Instead, his criminal record will be erased if he stays out of trouble for a year.

Outside court, he said: ``I’m just looking to put the pieces of my life back together and eventually restore my broadcasting career.″

Lurid allegations about Albert’s sex life, including his fondness for threesomes and women’s panties, led the 56-year-old sportscaster to cut short his trial and plead guilty last month to assault and battery. Prosecutors dropped forcible sodomy charges punishable by five years to life in prison.

Sitting in the front row of the courtroom Friday, the longtime lover who brought the charges, 42-year-old Vanessa Perhach, wept softly on the shoulder of a woman friend as prosecutors recounted the case.

She claimed Albert erupted in anger in a hotel room Feb. 12 after she refused his request to bring another man into bed for three-way sex. She said he threw her on the bed, bit her on the back more than a dozen times and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Prosecutors took the highly unusual step of calling Albert to the stand in an attempt to show that he was not truly remorseful.

While Albert did offer an apology, he said in the same breath that biting was ``normal activity″ when the two had sex.

``In the past, there was consensual biting. On this particular evening, I did not realize until her testimony that she felt she was harmed,″ Albert testified. ``For that I am sorry.″

As Albert spoke, Ms. Perhach shook her head.

When prosecutors pressed, asking Albert if he felt the encounter was wrong, Circuit Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick cut them off.

``He said he’s sorry she was hurt,″ the judge said. ``What else can an individual say?″

Later, when the judge gave Albert an opportunity to speak on his own, the sportscaster said: ``I’ve known Ms. Perhach for 10 years, we’ve had this relationship. As I said a moment ago, I’m sorry if she felt she was harmed.″

The judge rejected prosecutors’ request for a short jail term or direct court supervision. But for the next year, Albert must continue to receive counseling, and the judge will check periodically on his progress. If he commits a crime during that period, he could go to jail.

Albert, accompanied by fiancee Heather Faulkiner and other supporters, said as he left court, ``This has been a most difficult time for myself, my fiancee, my family.″

Legal experts said Albert received no special treatment as a celebrity, saying such a sentence is typical for first-time offenders.

``In a garden-variety assault and battery case, this is the most usual disposition,″ said James Clark, a lawyer who regularly practices in Arlington. ``If he got off easy he got off just as easy as everybody else.″

Outside court, defense attorney Roy Black launched into an attack on prosecutors, saying that the case was brought simply to grab headlines and that putting him on the stand was an attempt to further humiliate him.

Prosecutor Richard Trodden refused to comment on the sentence, but said he wished Albert had offered more of an apology: ``A fuller explication would have been enlightening.″

Ms. Perhach’s lawyer, Dan Morissette, said his client was satisfied with the sentence, and ``most satisfied with the fact that he finally said he is sorry.″

In the circus-like atmosphere outside, with pranksters in toupees jostling with reporters, among those criticizing the sentence was the surprise witness who also accused Albert of biting her years earlier.

Patricia Masten had testified at the trial that Albert _ wearing panties and a garter belt _ bit her and forced her head toward his crotch in a Dallas hotel room.

``I hope that other females will not be discouraged by this sentencing,″ said Ms. Masten, accompanied by feminist attorney Gloria Allred. ``What kind of a message are we sending out to the children today? Is it, `Do whatever you want to whomever you want at any time you want and you walk away free?‴

Attorneys for both Ms. Perhach and Ms. Masten said they are considering suing Albert.

NBC fired Albert within hours of his plea. He resigned from his job as a TV announcer for basketball’s New York Knicks and hockey’s New York Rangers on the Madison Square Garden Network.

Albert’s agent, Evan Bell, said he has been deluged with job offers for his client and hopes his fans give the disgraced sportscaster another chance.

``He’s still the best in the business and he will be again,″ Bell said.

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