Criminal courts

Massage therapist on trial for alleged sex abuse

 

Three clients testified against the former massage therapist, but the trial could be dismissed because a juror knew a victim.

achoi@MiamiHerald.com

A former massage therapist charged with sexual battery might get his case dismissed because of a juror’s professional relationship with one of the alleged victims.

Victor Antonio Sanchez, 53, of Hialeah, who worked at Tiano Salon & Spa in Coconut Grove, was arrested in February and accused of the sexual assault of a woman who later sued the business.

During trial Tuesday, one of the jurors realized he knew the alleged victim from his work place of 40 years. The juror said he had talked to the victim about six times over the years. The juror, who had not been informed of the victim’s occupation or her full name before the trial, was excused from the case.

Sanchez’s defense attorney argued the juror’s relationship with the victim is grounds for a mistrial. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull will make a decision Wednesday.

Three alleged victims — all clients of Tiano Salon & Spa — testified against Sanchez on Tuesday, saying he touched them inappropriately during their sessions.

“I was in shock. I was scared,” said the woman who reported the alleged assault to the police.

The victim testified that Sanchez performed oral sex, and kissed her on the mouth against her will, after she told him to stop. She said she did not attempt to respond more aggressively until she left the spa.

“I’m in a room all by myself, almost naked. I don’t know how this individual is going to react by me screaming,” she said.

The other two alleged victims complained to the spa about Sanchez’s behavior several months prior to the alleged February assault, but did not report him to the police. Sanchez continued to work at the salon until his arrest.

One of the alleged victims said she came forward and testified against him “to get a second chance for me to do what I should have done in the first place.”

The prosecutor's office called Sanchez “unremorseful,” saying he preyed upon unsuspecting women, abusing his access to them as a licensed therapist.

Sanchez’s attorney, Miami-Dade assistant public defender Julia Seifer-Smith, argued that the case is based solely on the word of the alleged victim.

“It’s a story of fabrication and manipulation,” Seifer-Smith said.

The defendant’s attorney also argued that the detective on the case, Michael Ali, willfully lied to Sanchez about having DNA evidence and other victims in order to get a confession from Sanchez.

In response, Ali said lying is a commonly used interrogations tactic. “You are not going to confess to something you didn’t do just because I said it happened,” Ali said.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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