Miami-Dade County

Coconut Grove massage therapist acquitted of sexual battery

A massage therapist was found not guilty Wednesday of sexually attacking a woman at a Coconut Grove salon.

Jurors deliberated three hours before aquitting Victor Antonio Sanchez of sexual battery on a woman during a massage session in February at the swank Tiano Salon and Spa, 2840 Oak Ave.

His attorneys claimed police coerced him into confessing and that the woman was lying to bolster a civil lawsuit against the spa.

“You can say whatever you want because it’s free,” Sanchez, 53, of Hialeah, told reporters later. “But where is the proof? Where is the evidence?”

Sanchez had faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He was arrested in February on charges that he had groped the woman, then suddenly performed oral sex on her as she lay on the massage table.

During this week’s trial, prosecutors portrayed Sanchez as a predator abusing his position to prey on vulnerable woman at the salon.

“He is not some stranger in the dark alley,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Justin Funck told jurors. “He uses his job to isolate, intimidate and ultimately to violate . . . vulnerable women.”

But defense attorneys said that police had no physical evidence against Sanchez in a case built largely on the victim’s testimony and Sanchez’s statement to police that the victim consented to the sex act.

“No one was in that room but the two of them,” Miami-Dade assistant public defender Dan Parker told jurors.

The woman later sued the salon. During the litigation, her attorney learned that another woman had sent an email to the salon complaining about Sanchez’s touching her genitals during a session seven months before his arrest.

A civil judge allowed the salon to keep private the identity of the woman. The business also wanted to shield her name from prosecutors investigating Sanchez.

But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull, who presided over Sanchez’s criminal case, last month ordered the salon to give investigators her name — and ultimately, she testified this week against Sanchez.

A third woman with a similar story also came forward to testify against Sanchez. He was not charged in their cases.