Minister Sentenced To 16-Month Term
Saturday, March 17, 2007
A married minister at a large Prince George's County church, who admitted to sexually assaulting and beating a woman outside a Fairfax City hotel last year, was sentenced to 16 months in jail yesterday during an unusual hearing in which a prosecutor wished him well.
Eugene A. Marriott, 43, of Clinton was the minister to men at 10,000-member Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, one of the largest AME churches in the country. Police said that he raped, sodomized and brutally battered a 35-year-old Alexandria woman outside the Best Western Motel in Fairfax City the morning of Jan. 14, 2006, and that he was pulling up his pants, with the woman lying at his feet, when officers arrived and arrested him,
Marriott claimed in court papers that the attack was merely an extension of his sadomasochistic role-playing with the woman, though the woman said they had broken up weeks earlier. During jury selection for his rape trial in November, Marriott decided to enter a plea to abduction with intent to defile -- which carries a minimum 20-year sentence -- and unlawful wounding, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss the rape and sodomy counts.
But on Wednesday, Fairfax County prosecutors amended the charge to simple abduction -- with no minimum sentence and a 10-year maximum -- and added two misdemeanor sexual battery charges, to which Marriott pleaded guilty. The change was made because Marriott did not want to register as a sex offender, and neither his attorney nor the prosecutor had realized that the "intent to defile" charge would require registration when he entered his plea, said his attorney, Bobby B. Stafford. The battery charges do not require registration.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Toni Fay said that, whatever the couple's past sexual practices, "what happened that night was not a part of that involvement. What happened that night was criminal behavior." She handed Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Stanley P. Klein photos of the victim, who had bruises and cuts all over her body, from her lower legs to the top of her head.
But then Fay concluded her argument by saying: "I wish Mr. Marriott well. I hope that his wife takes him back. I am very glad to see his church and his community are still supporting him."
Fay declined to comment afterward, either on her encouragement to a defendant or on the amending of charges after Marriott had entered pleas to more serious counts. Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. did not return a call seeking comment.
The victim was stunned. Klein had sentenced two burglars in a previous case to 18 months and 20 months in prison. "It's not very much," she said of Marriott's sentence. "I'm kind of disappointed with that."
Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said: "When offenders avoid responsibility in these kinds of cases, it has a chilling effect on victims across the board, particularly sex crime victims. Sexual assault is a crime of domination and control, and this kind of reinforces that message, that it's completely out of the victim's control."
The victim, in a letter to Klein, said that she and Marriott had dated for about three months in late 2005 and broke up in January 2006. But she thought the breakup was amicable, so she called Marriott to take her dancing the night of Jan. 13, 2006. They went to the Taj bar inside the Best Western and had some drinks.
But when she asked Marriott to take her home, the woman said in the letter, he became angry. In the parking lot, she said, the minister beat her with his fists and with his belt buckle, raped her and sexually assaulted her. He then drove her to the other side of the motel, got her out of the car and repeated the beating and sexual assault, the woman said.
A witness in an adjacent parking lot, Ron Watkins of Alexandria, told The Washington Post that he saw Marriott "standing over top of her, just pounding away on her. Just beating her, pretty bad." He said he yelled at Marriott, but the minister continued attacking the woman.
When questioned by Detective Edward C. Vaughan later that morning, Marriott talked about the sexual role-playing the two had engaged in previously. Reading his comments aloud, Klein said the minister told the detective, "Even if it was classified as role-playing, I did wrong tonight."
Stafford characterized Marriott's conduct as "an overreaction." He said he admired how the minister "has been able to fight to stay alive, because he has suffered so tremendously from this tragedy."
Marriott then spoke for the first time. "I'm very sorry for my poor decision," he said, showing no emotion. "I'm very sorry for what I did that night. Yes, the church supports me, but I'm no longer in that capacity. Everything I worked for my whole life is gone." He said his wife also supported him.
Klein then rattled off a long list of the victim's bruises and injuries and said Marriott's behavior would not be tolerated.
He sentenced the minister to four years on each of the abduction and unlawful wounding counts but suspended all but 16 months and allowed the terms to be served concurrently. He imposed six-month terms on the two sexual battery counts, also to be served concurrently. Jail officials said Marriott, who was taken into custody, probably would serve nearly all of his time in the Fairfax jail rather than prison.