UPDATE: A New Jersey massage therapist acquitted by a jury of sexually assaulting a client still had his license permanently revoked, state authorities announced.
Jurors found Asmar R. Berry, 43, of Trenton not guilty in 2019 of sex crimes after his attorney argued that the contact was consensual.
Berry nonetheless “violated his duty as a massage therapist” through his actions, Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck said Wednesday.
“Consent is not a defense” when it comes to violating regulations of the massage business, the attorney general said.
Bruck said Berry’s actions also “constituted gross negligence, malpractice, incompetence and professional misconduct, warranting a permanent revocation of his license to practice massage and bodywork therapy in New Jersey.
“Engaging in sexual contact with clients is a serious violation of professional boundaries and an abuse of client trust that comes with serious consequences,” he said.
Authorities arrested Berry in October 2018 after a client accused him of inappropriately touching her at Renewed Spa Massage in Pennington. He signed a consent order agreeing to the suspension of his license until the case was resolved.
Berry fought the charges and was cleared by jurors in Trenton after 90 minutes or so of deliberation.
The “defamation of his character” had “egregiously tarnished” his reputation, Berry said in a statement following the verdict.
Since then, he’s reposted advertisements for the spa online.
The revocation officially took effect Sept. 28, authorities said, adding that Berry cannot reapply for a massage therapist’s license in New Jersey.
He was also assessed a $9,176.44 penalty to cover attorney’s fees and investigative costs.
Sean P. Neafsey, acting director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs, said “the majority of massage therapists conduct themselves professionally and follow strict standards.”
At the same time, Neafsey said that state authorities are “glad that the Board is holding this individual accountable for his actions.”
Clients who believe that they have been inappropriately touched by a licensed massage therapist can file a complaint online by visiting the state Division of Consumer Affairs website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200 to receive a paper complaint form by mail, the director said.
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