Massage therapist faces more charges

When a male therapist who formerly worked at Massage Envy in West Goshen Township was accused in May of sexually assaulting a client, prosecutors feared that there might be other victims: Detectives now say that those concerns were valid.

James Deiter

James R. Deiter

On Thursday, July 9, James R. Deiter, 63, of Holtwood, appeared in West Goshen district court and waived his preliminary hearing in that case as well as two others.

West Goshen Township Police detectives said that after the first complaint, they contacted Deiter, and he agreed to be interviewed. Detectives said he admitted the conduct and provided investigators with the names of other women he had touched inappropriately at the West Goshen Massage Envy, which is located in the 1100 block of West Chester Pike.

On June 3, prosecutors filed a second criminal complaint, adding indecent assault charges that occurred from the summer of 2014 to May 2015. The second set of charges involved seven more victims – a combination of women who had been identified by Deiter and some who contacted police after reading news reports. A ninth victim is represented in the third complaint, which was filed on June 11, court records said.

According to the complaints, in all but one of the cases, Deiter established a level of trust with the women in sessions that preceded the assaults. Prosecutors said he had worked at Massage Envy for about a year and also provided massage therapy at Pathways to Healing in Lancaster County.

Deiter’s attorney, Peter E. Kratsa, said he and his client will continue to cooperate with authorities. “I think it’s fair to say that we are moving toward a non-trial disposition,” Kratsa said.

Deiter appeared before Magisterial District Judge William D. Kraut, who set bail at $25,000 cash in each case. After the brief hearing, Deiter, who wore a gray Massage Envy polo shirt turned inside out, obscuring the label, was taken to the West Goshen Township Police Department for processing. He was then returned to Chester County Prison, where he has been held since May 2.

In his initial interview with West Goshen detectives, Deiter stated that another woman had filed a complaint with Massage Envy that he fondled her, but that he does not remember doing so, the first criminal complaint said. He added that he was suspended for one week from Massage Envy when that occurred but when the alleged victim refused to provide a statement, he was allowed to return to work, the complaint said.

Two civil attorneys who said they represent a majority of Deiter’s alleged victims said their research indicates that Massage Envy, a nationwide chain of franchises, has enabled assailants like Deiter.

Thomas Bellwoar of Luongo Bellwoar in West Chester said he and Brian D. Kent, a Philadelphia lawyer with Laffey Bucci Kent, joined forces on the case because both of their firms focus on victims’ rights. He said they plan to file a civil suit within the next week.

Kent said a quick online search revealed similar cases in 13 states and a pattern of not reporting complaints to police. “We know the problems that happen when you don’t report” this kind of behavior, Kent said, referencing the Jerry Sandusky case.

Bellwoar said that although Massage Envy says it maintains a zero-tolerance policy, other cases suggest a corporate culture of withholding information. “Instead of cutting if off, they perpetuate it,” Bellwoar said.

A statement from Massage Envy said: ""Massage Envy has stringent policies in place to foster a zero tolerance culture at each franchised location when it comes to inappropriate conduct. Our policies regarding reporting are extremely clear: All franchisees are required to comply with any applicable state and local reporting requirements. Failure to follow this specific policy, or any of our policies regarding inappropriate conduct can trigger significant  consequences for the franchisee, including termination of the franchise agreement.”

In response to  a followup question about whether any franchise agreements had ever been terminated, a company spokesperson said they have been.


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