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Marv Albert Pleads Guilty in Sex Case, Is Fired by NBC

Courts: Admission ends trial abruptly. Sportscaster faces up to year in jail.

September 26, 1997|BRIAN LOWRY and MILES CORWIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Sportscaster Marv Albert's sexual assault trial, which was replete with kinky details of lurid assignations in hotel rooms, came to an abrupt end Thursday when the flamboyant announcer pleaded guilty to assault and battery and was promptly fired by NBC.

In exchange for a guilty plea on the misdemeanor assault charge, prosecutors in Arlington, Va., dropped a more serious forcible sodomy charge.

Albert, who became known as the "Yesss!" man because of his distinctive call while broadcasting professional basketball games, also resigned from his position with MSG cable network as the voice of the NBA's New York Knicks.

"From my point of view, I just felt like I had to end this ordeal. . . ," said Albert, 56, outside court. "In the interest of my family, my friends and my many supporters, I step aside with deep humility and will seek to reconstruct my personal and professional life."

Albert had originally pleaded not guilty after being accused by a longtime lover of throwing her on a bed, repeatedly biting her on the back and forcing her to perform oral sex in an Arlington hotel room Feb. 12. The woman said Albert became enraged because she failed to procure another man and bring him to bed with them.

Albert finally agreed to the plea bargain after a second woman--a surprise witness--testified that three years ago Albert met her in a motel room wearing white panties and a garter belt. He lunged at her and then bit her, she said. The woman testified that she escaped his clutches after ripping his toupee off his head.

Albert faces up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Sentencing is set for Oct. 24.

One of the nation's best-known and highest-paid sports announcers, Albert was a favorite of fans because of his acerbic wit and distinctive style of calling a game. He traded on-air barbs with partners. He slipped in sly asides about court-side antics.

His "Yesss!" call was so well-known, and so intertwined with his persona, that during the trial a New York tabloid only needed a one-word headline for the sexual assault story: "NO!"

Albert was so beloved because he always leavened his incisive commentary with a sense of humor; he always let fans know that while he took the games seriously, he didn't take them too seriously.

Born Marvin Philip Aufrichtig, he changed his name to Marv Albert when he embarked on a sports-casting career shortly after leaving Syracuse University. Unlike many young announcers who labor in obscurity in small towns, Albert, at the age of 24, was the regular play-by-play man for the New York Knicks basketball team and the New York Rangers hockey team. His inimitable announcing style was soon copied by kids on playgrounds throughout the city, and he became a New York icon, serving as the broadcast voice of the Knicks for 30 years.

Albert gained national prominence when he was hired by NBC in 1977.

On Thursday, within hours of Albert changing his plea, NBC issued a brief statement that read: "This past May, when charges against Marv Albert became public, Mr. Albert asserted his innocence and assured NBC senior management that there was no basis whatsoever to the charges. Today, given Marv Albert's plea of guilty to assault and battery, NBC terminated its relationship with Mr. Albert."

Albert's contract contained a standard morals clause, giving the network the right to terminate him "if at any time your personal conduct with respect to what is generally considered public morals, either while rendering services or in your public life, is without due regard to the best interests of NBC."

Albert's attorney, Roy Black, said his client accepted the plea because the judge had barred him from introducing evidence that could have impeached the credibility of Albert's accuser.

That included a tape in which the woman apparently sought to bribe a potential witness, a cabdriver, to back her claim.

Outside the court Thursday, cabbie Walter Brodie confirmed that the woman wanted him to go to prosecutors with a fabricated story and she would give him a share of her award from a planned $3-million lawsuit against Albert.

One of the jurors in the case, Kerri Nelson, told Fox News Channel on Thursday she did not feel there was enough evidence to convict Albert, saying the tape had raised doubts regarding the woman's motives. Nelson said she was "shocked by the fact that they plea bargained."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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