*Warning: This story may be disturbing to some readers.
A new trial has been ordered for the Victoria man accused of sexually assaulting clients during ‘hot stone therapy’ in his home basement massage facility.
In December 2018, John Heintzelman was acquitted of two counts of sexual assault after four days of evidence from complainants, who described “unwanted sexual touching” during treatments where Heintzelman rubbed hot stones on various parts of their naked bodies.
Heintzelman was the practitioner of a business operating under the name “James Bay Massage,” previously called “Ancient Medicine.”
Two complainants described unwanted sexual touching by Heintzelman during the initial trial. But one did not come forward with the allegations until another alleged assault was made public in October 2017, when the Victoria Police Department issued a press release asking other potential victims to come forward in connection to a case the department was investigating.
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) October 20, 2017
At trial, Heintzelman denied the allegations. His wife testified that she was upstairs during the treatment of the first complainant and did not hear anything “untoward.”
Trial judge Ted Gouge acquitted Heintzelman, writing in his decision that he was in the position of being “unable to decide whom to believe” and therefore obliged to acquit.
Gouge said one complainant’s mental health issues made it difficult to corroborate the two stories. He also commented on the nature of VicPD’s press release, which named Heintzelman. “It would have been possible for them to test the veracity of those complaints by asking the complainants for the name of the assailant and the address where the assault took place,” said Gouge.
The Crown, however, took issue with Gouge’s assessments and successfully appealed his decision in the Supreme Court of B.C., where Justice Johnson said the trial judge gave too much weight to speculation of the complainant’s psychiatric condition and VicPD’s media release.
The date for the new trial is yet to be determined.
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