In December 2018, a provincial judge cleared a local massage therapist, John Heintzelman, of two alleged sexual assaults that he was charged with in 2017.

In the fall of 2017, Victoria police uploaded a Facebook post asking victims to come forward if they had been sexually assaulted by Heintzelman during a massage at his in-home studio.

The post included Heintzelman’s name, his age, his business’s name, and the studio’s location.

Our investigators are looking to speak wtih additional victims after arresting a 65-year-old Victoria man for a sexual…

Posted by Victoria Police Department on Friday, October 20, 2017

The post’s specificity however, is what ultimately lead Judge Ted Gouge to dismiss the charges.

“I am concerned by the notice published by the Victoria Police Department, asking other victims to come forward,” said Gouge in his ruling.

“If the police had published such a notice, and received one or more complaints in response, 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.”

VicPD’s Facebook post that was uploaded in October 2017, prompted a woman to come forward and allege an incident of sexual assault that dates back to 2013.

In 2013, the woman claims that Heintzelman instructed her to disrobe before fondling her breasts, inner thighs, buttocks, and genitals during a hot stone massage. She also said that he placed her hand on his penis and moved it up and down.

“… the next thing I remember, I’m in the bathroom getting dressed,” reads the court ruling. Throughout these events, she said she “felt paralyzed and confused, and unable to speak or think.”

The complainant suffers from a mental illness, which is currently diagnosed as schizophrenia. Earlier in her life, she suffered from visual and auditory hallucinations.
However, the complainant argues that her mental illness should not affect the case as she was prescribed and taking anti-psychotic medication at the time of the incident, during her interview with the police, and when she gave evidence at the trial.

Despite the claims of medication, the judge decided that combination of the overly informative Facebook post and potential unreliability of the allegation made it difficult to measure the authenticity of the testimony.

The second allegation, which prompted VicPd’s Facebook post, occured in May 2017 and was reported to police in July of the same year. The complainant in this case cited very similar conditions to the 2013 allegation.

Acquittal

Heintzelman has adamantly denied ever touching anyone, and says that after his massage with the 2017 complainant she wrote a “glowing” review about the session “recommending him to others.” After the allegations were made, Heintzelman said he searched for the post but it had since been deleted.

Heintzelman’s wife also says that she was at home in her living room, just above the studio, during one of the massages and didn’t hear anything unusual. She believes she was present during the 2013 allegation but couldn’t be certain due to the passage of time.

The crown prosecutor argued that the similarities between the two women’s stories should be considered corroborating evidence.

However, the judge said that the corroboration couldn’t be considered fully reliable as police had given too much information away in their social media post, and because he didn’t have enough information to gauge the accuracy of the 2013 recollection.

As the judge was unable to determine which version of events to believe, he said he had no choice but to acquit.

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