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    Albert Apology May Clear Record

    Albert, fiancee and witness after sentencing hearing/AP Marv Albert and his fiancee, Heather Faulkiner, center, leave court after his sentencing. At left is Patricia Masden, who testified against Albert. (AP)
    By Brooke A. Masters
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, October 25, 1997; Page H01

    Over the objections of prosecutors who said Marv Albert should go to jail because his courtroom apology for biting a Vienna woman wasn't sufficiently remorseful, an Arlington judge ruled yesterday that the former NBC sportscaster's assault conviction will be dismissed if he stays out of trouble for a year.

    Albert had faced up to one year in jail under the plea bargain that ended his high-profile forcible sodomy trial last month for biting Vanessa Perhach, 42. Circuit Court Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick opted to hold off imposing a sentence on Albert while the New Yorker stays on unsupervised probation. The judge also required Albert to get mental health counseling.

    Taking the stand yesterday for the first time, as a witness called by the prosecution, the 56-year-old former voice of the New York Knicks offered his accuser a somewhat stumbling apology.

    "Ms. Perhach and I had a 10-year relationship. In the past, there was consensual biting," Albert said. "On this particular evening, I did not realize until her testimony that she felt harmed by this.

    "For that I am sorry," he said and then mumbled again, "I am sorry."

    That statement was enough for Kendrick, who refused to let prosecutors question Albert about the details of the Feb. 12 incident at a Pentagon City hotel. "I am concerned about feelings of remorse. I am satisfied they exist," the judge said. "He said he was sorry that she was hurt. . . . What else does the Commonwealth want?"

    But Commonwealth's Attorney Richard E. Trodden said that according to a defense psychiatric report, Albert's "remorse is `about his ill-advised sexual relationships which have interfered with his relationship with his fiancee.' That is hardly the kind of remorse which is appropriate."

    While conceding that Albert probably is not a danger to society, Trodden urged the judge to impose a "modest amount of jail time" to demonstrate that "personal violence is not acceptable. . . . A woman or a man has a right to say no and the law will protect that right with a vengeance."

    An attorney for Vanessa Perhach, who testified that Albert bit her back more than a dozen times and then forced her to perform oral sex, said Perhach was "satisfied" by the proceedings.

    "She's most satisfied with the fact that he has said he's sorry, more than with anything the judge did or did not do," said Daniel J. Morrissette. Perhach is considering a personal injury lawsuit, but Morrissette said, "We would like to settle this matter."

    Patricia Masten, who surprised the defense during the trial by testifying that Albert had bitten her in 1993 and 1994, was far less sanguine. "Personally I am very upset that he's not getting jail time," she said. "What kind of message are we sending to kids today? . . . Do what you want and walk away."

    Masten's attorney, Gloria Allred, said her client is considering a civil suit, but Albert's attorney, Roy Black, dismissed Masten's claim that Albert, wearing a garter belt and women's panties, bit her neck and tried to force her to perform oral sex in a Texas hotel. "Her allegations are not true," Black said.

    Many Northern Virginia defendants convicted of misdemeanor assault receive delayed sentencing if, as in Albert's case, they have no prior record, lawyers said. Even some prosecutors said they weren't surprised by Kendrick's decision, in part because the Arlington probation office had recommended against jail time.

    If Albert is not arrested or indicted and he continues the mental health counseling he has already started, in one year he would be able to say he has never been convicted of a crime. A speeding ticket would not violate the terms of the probation, but a criminal charge would, court officials said.

    "Finally common sense has prevailed in this case," Black said after the sentencing. "When these events occurred that night, Marv did not think he was doing something criminal, something unconsensual . . . but sometimes human beings misunderstand each other."

    Albert, meanwhile, thanked his fans for their support and said he hopes to go back to broadcasting. NBC fired him within hours of his guilty plea, and he resigned from the Madison Square Garden cable network. "I'm just looking to put the pieces of my life back together," he said.

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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