Judge orders Coconut Grove salon to give authorities name of groping victim

07/25/2014 11:08 AM

07/25/2014 10:06 PM

A Miami-Dade judge on Friday ordered an upscale Coconut Grove salon to reveal to authorities the name of a woman who complained she was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist.

Lawyers for the Tiano Salon & Spa had been fighting prosecutors’ attempts to identify the woman, saying they believed the woman wanted to remain private because she had never reported the July 2013 incident to police.

But prosecutors told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull on Friday that the move was a “transparent attempt” to withhold evidence of a crime that took place inside the salon.

“There is no massage therapist-patient [privacy] privilege,” Assistant State Attorney Christine Zahralban argued.

Judge Rebull gave the salon one week to turn over all records identifying the woman. He will appoint a retired female judge to receive the records and contact the woman to see if she has any objections to prosecutors receiving her information.

Her identity would still remain secret — by law, prosecutors cannot release to the public the names of sexual battery victims.

The case revolves around massage therapist Victor Antonio Sanchez, who was arrested in February after a woman told police he suddenly performed oral sex on her during a session at the Oak Avenue business.

She later sued the spa. During the course of the civil case, the spa released to her lawyer a redacted email from another woman who had complained about a similar episode seven months earlier.

That unidentified woman, in a terse email to the spa, described the emotional trauma of Sanchez’s groping and warned “he will continue to do this” if he was not fired.

“I am seriously considering filing a police report if this man is not dealt with properly,” she wrote.

Nevertheless, the spa kept Sanchez working there — until he was arrested after the alleged July attack. At least two other possible victims also posted accounts of Sanchez’s misconduct on online reviews for the spa.

After the email surfaced, a Miami-Dade civil judge agreed that the salon did not have to reveal the woman’s identity to the lawyers suing the business.

Prosecutors then subpoenaed the records, saying they needed to talk to the woman because she was a victim of a crime. The woman in the first alleged attack could also testify against Sanchez in his trial for the second incident.

Judge Rebull agreed with prosecutors.

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