When “Laila” went to a Salt Lake City hospital to report she had been raped, a counselor told her that in Utah, “You get in more trouble selling a bag of weed than raping a woman.”
For the next two and a half hours, forensic nurses examined her for evidence of the sexual assault she’d endured six hours earlier on June 8, 2003, when a man she’d met at a nightclub pulled her into an alley and raped her.
The now-35-year-old mother of three, who requested her name be withheld, says, “I had an overwhelming sense of feeling dirty.”
“I felt so low, so defeated,” Laila says. “The thing about rape is that you don’t get victimized [just] that one time. I felt that way so many times.”
Her rapist, whom she described to Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Cody Lougy as “a pretty boy” with waxed eyebrows, was 28-year-old Azlen Adieu Farquoit Marchet. When questioned, Marchet told Lougy the sex was consensual, a defense he used to respond to Laila’s accusations and similar ones from multiple other accusers.
While Lougy believed Laila’s complaint, Salt Lake County Assistant District Attorney Langdon T. Fisher declined to file charges. The reason, Lougy explained to her, was a recording Marchet made with his cell phone moments after the rape, as he walked her to her car and told her that she was “not a ’ho.” Laila replied, in a soft voice, “Kinda,” a response she says she made because she questioned whether she was, in some way, partially to blame. It was a question that would continue to haunt her, especially as she struggled to find people—notably law enforcement—who didn’t make the same assumption.
Laila wasn’t the only woman who’d been sexually assaulted by Marchet. Lougy and Sandy Police Department Detective Chris Thomas soon realized they were both investigating the same man, Laila says, and they went to Fisher and Fisher’s boss, Paul Parker, with a total of six victims, including Laila. The district attorney’s office turned them down. (Fisher, now working for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, did not respond to a request for comment.)
The refusal to prosecute “compounds that feeling that it was your fault,” Laila says. “I really blamed myself for a long time, up until Michaela pressed charges.”
Salt Lake County Assistant District Attorney Michaela Andruzzi is a formidable career prosecutor with a sharp tongue and a fiery spirit. By September 2010, when Marchet finally stood trial for Laila’s rape, Andruzzi had already won three rape convictions against him, all carrying consecutive sentences of five years to life.
Laila’s trial pushed the prosecution of Marchet farther, because he faced 15 years to life for each of the two first-degree felony charges of aggravated sexual assault. Both prosecutor and defendant saw Laila’s trial as one that could put Marchet away for a long time, possibly life. As Marchet, a one-time aspiring actor, says during a jailhouse interview, “That’s kind of a wrap, isn’t it?”
Until Andruzzi took over the cases, however, most of the victims felt that the justice system had failed them, in great part because prosecutors initially declined to file charges on their complaints. During the 18 months after Laila’s complaint, Marchet remained free and allegedly raped or attempted to rape at least another four women.
“Since 2003, when that first case came in, everybody who has touched this bears some responsibility for the delay in arresting and charging Marchet,” Andruzzi says.
Acquaintance rapes, Andruzzi says, are far more common than stranger rapes. But because they typically take place in private, they devolve into “he said, she said” disputes. In a conservative state such as Utah, the behavior of the victim—from what they wore to whether they drank alcohol to where they met the rapist—is also put on trial. Furthermore, rape victims face a daunting journey to court. Andruzzi estimates that local police sit on or, in cop parlance, “short form,” half the rape allegations that are reported to them. Of those that do go to the district attorney’s office for screening, only about half make it to trial. Once at trial, success is a 50-50 shot. There’s a perception among prosecutors, Andruzzi says, that “there’s not much chance [of winning]” these types of cases and, thus, a reluctance to prosecute. However, the Marchet trials prove that the cases can be won.
“They’re difficult, but you can’t be afraid to take them on,” she says. “If I believe the victim, I can make the jury believe.”
When Andruzzi called Laila to tell her she wanted to reopen her case, Laila cried. “I spent two years in therapy because I thought you people didn’t believe in me,” she told her. After that, Andruzzi instituted a policy that prosecutors in her unit have to explain to victims, in person, why they are declining to press charges.
Over the course of Marchet’s trials, the six victims, who all knew they had been assaulted by the same man but were instructed by the district attorney’s office not to talk to one another about their cases, became friends nonetheless. “It’s like an odd support club, where you couldn’t talk about why you were there,” Andruzzi says.
While five of the victims feel they have been able to move on from their assault, Laila says that all she does “is show up for life” and wonders whether she will ever find a man who “can still love me after that, want to be with me after that, or not blame me after that.” She fears that “my walk with him will haunt me the rest of my life.”
Marchet, however, during an interview at the Utah State Prison in Draper (where his 6-foot-7-inch frame fills the visiting room) seems less concerned with his victims than with Andruzzi, whom he argues behaves as if she has a grudge against him. “She acts like she’s an ex and we had a bad break up,” he says, even while acknowledging her success. “She’s done kicked everybody’s ass.”
His frustration is palpable, even through the plastic prison window. “It sucks to sit [in court] and have to be stoic, when you want to scream at the top of your lungs, ‘That’s bullshit!’ ” he says. He rails against what he says is “a caricature” that’s been painted repeatedly of him in court, “as this big black dude that’s running around raping people.”
That’s an opinion shared by his father, Miller Eichelberger, a former airline customer-service manager and onetime Midvale burger restaurateur. He attended all of Marchet’s trials and by the time he sat through Laila’s testimony, he had spent his life savings fruitlessly defending his son. “It’s eating me alive,” he says. “I’m from Mississippi; I know how people get treated.”
Marchet and several of his attorneys have also brought up the specter of race, comparing his situation to that of a black man tried unjustly for raping a white woman in the Harper Lee novel To Kill A Mockingbird. But Andruzzi argues race has no bearing on the trials. During Marchet’s second trial, she told the court, “It’s not the state’s fault the defendant chose to rape white women.”
During the interview at the prison, Marchet shows pictures of his life in his 20s, the life he has lost. They show him with actors, a porn star, musicians and reality-TV stars. “I was going places,” he says. “I was acting, doing modeling. The future looked so bright. I had a house, a brand-new Mercedes, a trophy girlfriend. I was doing my thing.”
Thomas, the Sandy Police detective, sees Marchet’s “thing” in ominous tones. When he entered Marchet’s two-floor Sandy condominium to arrest him for rape in 2005, the property was like “a model home,” containing clubbing clothes, cologne and jewelry, a TV and a room set up for making porn. Thomas concluded that “the consumption of Marchet’s life was to lure women to his bedroom and have sex with them—with or without their consent.” Thomas found two spiral notebooks full of female names, including Laila’s name with “in the alley” penned next to it, a reference to where she was raped. Many other names had locations as well, making Thomas believe that there are more victims to be found.
One of those other victims was then 23-year-old Jessica Campbell, who went to the Sandy Police in June 2005. Thomas took her statement that a man whom she met at a nightclub, later identified as Marchet, had invited her to his house so they could go out for drinks. When she went to his Sandy condominium, he raped her in his bedroom, biting her shoulder and repeatedly pulling her head back with her hair to force her to watch the assault in the mirror. “He was getting more violent,” Andruzzi says.
Thomas called other police stations across the valley, looking for information on Marchet. In a 2004 Salt Lake City Police report of a bar-room brawl, Brooklynn Fobbs told an officer she had been raped by Marchet in 2002. Fobbs’ story, and that of another Marchet victim, Melissa Person, bore strong similarities to Campbell’s.
Salt Lake County Prosecutor John K. Johnson took Campbell’s case and asked 3rd District Court Judge Timothy Hansen to allow him to present to the jury not only Campbell’s story, but also testimony by Shauna Wallace, whom Marchet had raped in a parking lot, and Pam Collins, whom he’d allegedly assaulted in a nightclub stairwell. To do so, he cited controversial rule 404B, which allows for the introduction of evidence of prior criminal acts to demonstrate, among other things, a pattern of behavior or scheme clearly identifiable to a specific individual. But Hansen ruled against Johnson. “We need to bring this case on its own merits,” Hansen told the court. To allow the other evidence in “is so prejudicial that it becomes unfair.”
After the jury returned a not-guilty verdict on Aug. 26, 2005, Marchet gave his defense attorney, Greg Skordas, a blue 1st-place ribbon, although a bailiff stopped him from giving the prosecutor Johnson a 2nd-place ribbon.
Campbell’s knees buckled and she fell sobbing to the floor. At the prosecution table, Thomas felt like he’d been punched in the stomach as he listened to her sobs behind him.
After Marchet’s acquittal, Thomas says three other Marchet cases stalled until February 2007. That’s when Lohra Miller, who recently had been elected district attorney, brought in Andruzzi to head up sex-crimes prosecutions at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office. Andruzzi decided to reopen the Marchet case. “Some prosecutors are totally afraid to go to court unless they know they can win,” Thomas says. “Michaela is not afraid. She’ll go to trial.”
Andruzzi’s passion for rape cases stems from dealing with her best friend at college, whom, Andruzzi says, was raped in the mid-’80s. In the aftermath of the assault, Andruzzi witnessed a disbelieving detective question her distraught friend, only for the charge to be dismissed as part of a plea bargain. “If I dismiss it, isn’t that saying it didn’t happen?” Andruzzi asks.
Andruzzi asked for all of the cases involving Marchet and spent a weekend with Thomas and a paralegal breaking down the 10 assaults he allegedly had committed into two patterns, four that took place in Marchet’s apartment, six in or near nightclubs. She filed a 404B motion with 3rd District Court Judge Robert Hilder that took a different tack from Johnson’s, addressing Marchet’s two distinct sexual-assault schemes.
When Marchet stood trial in 2007 for the rape of Brooklynn Fobbs in his apartment, Andruzzi asked Hilder to allow the testimony of Person and Campbell, whose rapes in Marchet’s apartment were strikingly similar to Fobbs’. After three hearings, Hilder ruled the jury could hear all three women.
Hilder’s 404B ruling shifted the 50-50 shot at a conviction, she says, to 55-45. Rule 404B, which applies both at a federal and state level, “tries to straddle the fence of fairness to the defendant and accuracy to the system,” says U of U S.J. Quinney College of Law professor Daniel Medwed. “Prosecutors shouldn’t have to prove more than in other areas, but in practical matters, [in rape cases] they have to.” The social stigma that surrounds rape effectively demands the prosecution stack the deck with all the evidence they can muster.
Defense attorneys, expressing concern that juries would apply such testimony to the defendant’s character rather than using it to assess his modus operandi, saw it differently. “It’s like a slow car wreck, watching [the testimony] accumulate in the jury’s eyes,” former Marchet attorney Clayton Simms says. Marchet agrees. “When you start bringing in X, Y and Z, all reasonable doubt gets thrown out of the window.”
Fobbs met Marchet at Club Axis one November night in 2002. He persistently asked her to come to his house to watch a movie. Once there, she realized “he was bad news.” A video-camera tripod was set up in front of a TV, and on a message board were “tons of pics of girls naked, half naked.”
When he started raping her, she screamed at him to stop. “You know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want it,” he told her. She blamed herself for the rape, and it took two years of counseling to understand that she “didn’t deserve it and didn’t ask for it.” When Fobbs and several friends ran into Marchet at a club in September 2004, one of her friends accused him of raping Fobbs. Marchet allegedly broke a beer bottle over Fobbs’ head.
She told police officers who interviewed her in the hospital that she wanted to press charges for the bar-room assault and the rape. Their response reinforced the doubts that kept her from originally reporting the rape. “I almost felt like they didn’t believe me, that they almost questioned me. They did exactly what I thought they would do in not believing me ... I was already the victim. Why were they victimizing me again?”
No Is Not Enough
Despite Hilder’s ruling, Andruzzi had to convince a jury to believe a 6-year-old case that the victim had taken two years to report and that lacked physical evidence. In that trial, as in every other rape trial, Andruzzi wanted the jury to viscerally and emotionally understand the events. “I want them to feel it, see it and smell it. They have to understand what she was experiencing and what her options were at that moment.”
Andruzzi had Fobbs testify first, then Person, then Campbell. “I put my most compelling witness last. Jessica’s emotions were so raw at that point after the acquittal. It was really hard for her.”
Skordas, however, didn’t cross-examine the 404B witnesses. Andruzzi says it was “a shrewd move, giving the impression he did not find them important.”
Fobbs recalls, “Melissa and Jessica corroborated everything I said.” When the jury came back with a guilty verdict, she says she and the other victims “started bawling. Finally, someone listened.”
Campbell, who Andruzzi says is “the glue” that holds the other victims together, says she took comfort knowing that her trial had provided a blueprint for Andruzzi.
Prosecuting the Victim
In 2008, Marchet faced his third trial, for raping young widow Melissa Person.
Person recalls Marchet in black leather pants and a racing-car leather jacket trying to pick her up at Club Naked on July 1, 2004, where she had gone with girlfriends to dance. “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” she says. “I didn’t know how to let him down.”
She went to his apartment to watch a movie, in the hope that would be sufficient to placate him. Instead, he raped her twice, during which Person tried to push him off until she says she heard her dead husband’s voice telling her to “stay calm so you can get home to our kids.”
Person had a code-R examination at a Sandy hospital and reported the crime to the police. The district attorney’s office, however, declined to press charges. Three years went by, the first of which Person spent in her bedroom battling depression, abdicating the raising of her three young children to her nanny. Then, in 2008, Andruzzi called, wanting her to testify at Marchet’s trial for Fobbs’ rape.
During the trial, Marchet’s defense attorney Scott Wilson characterized all three women as consenting to sex, and then later feeling “scorned and used.” He questioned Person about her attire and her use of makeup prior to going to Club Naked, suggesting she was interested in finding a sexual partner. “Just the name of [the club] would give you some inference of what’s going on there.”
On rebuttal, Andruzzi said, “I have a sleeveless top on underneath my jacket today, lipstick, high heels; doesn’t mean I’m looking to get laid.”
The jury convicted Marchet of rape for a second time.
Reviving the Dead
Andruzzi and her co-counsel, Mike Postma, turned their attention to the parking-lot rapes, but hit a serious roadblock when the fourth trial victim, Shauna Wallace, initially refused to testify.
Marchet lured Wallace out of a nightclub to see his new Escalade, then flipped her around between several cars, “and the next thing I knew he was inside me. It seemed like forever.”
Four days later, after the code-R examination, a female detective interviewed her, but Wallace felt she did not believe her. Several months later, a police officer called to say the district attorney’s office declined to press charges for lack of sufficient evidence. “I was completely and utterly devastated. Something so awful happened to me and they could just say ‘he said, she said.’ ”
When Marchet was arrested for raping Campbell, Wallace says she called then-assistant district attorney William Kendall, who had declined her case, day after day for three months, but he never returned her calls. Finally, she went to the district attorney’s office and demanded to see him. “I made him look me in the eye and told him for an hour and a half what happened. Five days later, my case was filed.” Now working at the U.S. Attorneys office, Kendall declined to comment.
Clayton Simms defended Marchet for the fourth trial. “It was like trying to perform CPR on a corpse,” he says. “Win or lose, he was still going back to prison.” After the jury found Marchet guilty, he had to be dragged from the court by nine bailiffs.
Faith and Trust
Wallace wasn’t the only victim reluctant to testify. Laila spent six years struggling to put her life back together. When she got a subpoena in the mail, she begged Andruzzi to drop the case. “We need you to help put him away for life,” Andruzzi told her.
She agreed, but when she saw Marchet in the courthouse, it “felt like someone had just unlocked the vault to my deepest, darkest nightmare.”
Postma’s opening words to the jury of six women and three men were stark: “Don’t move. I need to come.” That’s what Marchet told Laila, Postma said, as he first sodomized then raped her.
Marchet’s lawyer, Chad Steur, assigned by Salt Lake Legal Defenders as conflict counsel for Marchet after he fired Simms, reminded the jury his client was presumed innocent and said that the sex was consensual. “Her behavior and her words indicated to Mr. Marchet—and any reasonable man—she wanted sexual intercourse and when she said no, he stopped.”
Testifying were Shauna Wallace and another alleged victim, nurse Pam Collins. Collins recalled meeting Marchet at the Sky Bar in January 2005. She told the jury that after he asked for her phone number, he pulled her into a stairwell and started kissing her. “I don’t even know you,” she said. He flipped her around and held her arms to her side with one arm while pulling down her skirt. “I know you want it, I just want to rub it on you,” she heard him say. Eventually, she got away from him and ran to her car. “He tried to rape me,” she told a friend.
When Laila took the stand, her hand shook as she took the oath. She recalled meeting Marchet and giving him her home phone number because she had a “difficult time being assertive.” The next week, Marchet called her a “fake-number giver” and, as she was leaving the club, pulled her aside to talk. Her friends got into her car while she went with Marchet down the street. She thought she’d tell him she had a boyfriend and that would be the end of it, but instead he told her she had “a nice ass,” grabbed her by the wrists and led her down a dark alley.
She looked down, rocking slightly, as she recounted the rape. “It [hurt], very much so.” She told the jury, “I was screaming ‘No!’ but he just continued to have sex with me.”
On cross-examination, Steur asked Laila if she was flirting with Marchet when they went down the alley. “I wouldn’t call it flirting,” she said, although she agreed that she was going along with his advances.
Steur bent over to demonstrate the position Marchet had forced Laila into while he sodomized her, then, still bent over, asked her if that position didn’t indicate a willingness to “engage in this activity.”
Laila blinked back tears and angrily told Steur she was scared out of her mind and in searing pain.
“Would it be accurate to say you engaged in a sexual act with Mr. Marchet that you felt guilty after it occurred?”
“Not guilty. Dirty.”
Andruzzi, on redirect, asked Laila if she ever consented. No, she replied. “I had a 6-foot-7 man who outweighed me by 100 pounds in a dark alley. I was terrified out of my mind.”
Marchet declined to testify, the first time he had done so in one of his trials.
The next morning, in her closing argument, Andruzzi reinforced to the jury that, despite Laila’s pleas to stop, Marchet “shoved his unlubricated penis into her anus, and we’re wondering if she consented to that.”
Steur, however, reminded them about the conversation after the rape that Marchet had recorded, and also suggested, again, that her failure to stand up was an indication of consent.
In her rebuttal, Andruzzi told the jury, “I guess the defendant forgot to give out a brochure on how rape victims are supposed to behave,” she said. “Come on. Do we really put rape victims on trial here?”
At 2:30 p.m., the jury delivered the verdict: guilty on both counts. Laila held her teenage daughters’ hands, bracing herself for Marchet’s rage that never came.
Afterward, the passageway on the third floor of the Matheson courthouse was “like a ghost town,” Laila says. She asked to talk to the jury and waited for them to exit on the ground floor. When the elevator opened, eight people walked toward her. Several were crying, and each one hugged her. For Laila, that was the best vindication.
“It made me feel good. I was doubted for so long,” she says. If she hadn’t talked to the jury, “I would still be carrying around the sense that people don’t believe you, that people blame you.”
The jury drifted out into the gathering night. Laila lingered for a moment, not quite wanting to leave.
Then, she says, “It was like exhale, finally breathe. It felt complete.” CW
Online exclusive: Below, prosecutors seek to admit evidence of past rapes in one of several rape trials Marchet faced. The document details most fully the long stretch of crimes that the government believes he committed.