By Aska Smith
Jeremy Tali Davis faced two counts of charges stemming from allegations that he inappropriately sexually touched a client during a message therapy session.
On Monday, the jury returned with a not guilty verdict on Count 1, felony sexual battery. The court declared a mistrial on Count 2 because the jury was unable to come to a verdict.
The case will return to Judge Rosenberg’s court on Thursday to determine whether the DA will retry Mr. Davis on misdemeanor charges.
Previous article: Jury Unable to Reach Verdict before End of Day in Sexual Battery Case:
By Deana Medina
Three hours of deliberation was not enough for the jury to come to a decision involved in the four-day trial of a massage therapist accused of sexual battery.
The accused massage therapist, Jeremy Tali Davis, took the stand and relayed his story of what happened the day of January 24, 2016, between him and a client.
Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke began questioning his client to establish Davis as a man of good character.
Davis is 34 years old with four daughters, one being in attendance during his testimony.
In 2010, Davis went to school to be a massage therapist. “I like helping people…one of the massage therapists [they stopped him on the street] told me about the profession. They took me upstairs and I never looked back,” said Davis.
Eleven months of schooling, 90 hours of hands-on massage training and a 300-question exam certified Davis as a massage therapist, leading to his nearly six years’ worth of experience as a massage therapist.
His first job was in Vacaville at a small boutique and spa. From late 2010 until 2013 Davis worked full time, seeing regular female customers at a Massage Heights location in Novato, from which a fellow coworker, “LR,” testified to Davis’ reputation as a true professional.
Gocke continued building Davis’ character, bringing up another witness, “LN,” who testified Wednesday afternoon on his behalf. LN frequented the Massage Heights in Novato specifically for Davis, to the point where he would go to LN’s house to massage, totaling nearly ten occasions.
Davis said he never received any complaints while he worked in Novato, seeing many female clients.
When asked to give the court an estimate as to how many female clients he had massaged, Davis said, “I would say well over 100.”
The scene of the alleged sexual battery incident was at a Massage Heights in Davis, now closed. They hired the defendant in late 2015. Here it was no different in regard to Davis seeing female clients.
Gocke asked specific questions about January 24, 2016, prompting Davis to walk through the first encounter with the alleged victim, “S,” and the massage that followed.
“I always walk up and greet the customer. We go over a questionnaire to see what areas they want to be addressed,” said Davis.
The questionnaire with S revealed she needed specific help with her IT (iliotibial) band, a tendon from the hip area to the knee. This led to S asking for a deep tissue massage, a type with which she had no previous experience, but that she believed could help with her issue – which needed to be resolved as quickly as possible so she could resume her duties as a student athlete.
Davis stated he went through the standard procedure once in the private room with S, telling her to undress to her preference before leaving the room to give her privacy.
The massage proceeded normally in the beginning according to Davis: “I pretty much do every massage the same.”
The massage began with Davis tending to S’s right shoulder and right side of her back, eventually moving down to her legs and buttocks. Once he was working on her lower body, Davis used lighter pressure since she said was an athlete and “I didn’t want to disable her and not have her be able to run the next day,” said Davis.
At this point Davis rebutted S’s claims that he allegedly had an erection and pressed it against her feet while massaging her.
Instead, he described all the ways in which he had respected her privacy, starting with how S flipped over and laid vulnerably on her stomach and facing away from Davis for one hour.
“When they [a customer] flips over, I always check in…I give them time to flip,” said Davis. Giving time meant holding up a sheet for S and turning away to allow her to feel comfortable to flip.
According to Davis, when he checked in at this point with his client “she never said anything, she said it was fine.”
Next, Davis said he massaged S’s feet for about five to seven minutes, on which he applied the deepest pressure, with the quads receiving the least pressure and the shins receiving a medium pressure.
The massage eventually went above the right knee of S, and during the questionnaire Davis claimed she indicated this was a comfortable area to be worked on.
After a quad massage, Davis began a hamstring stretch that he said was discussed at the time between the two, since S was a runner and Davis suggested it.
The stretch lasted for 10 to 15 seconds, and, when asked by Gocke if anything strange had happened during this point of the massage, Davis said, “Yes, her knee went out and she wrapped it around my waist. I immediately said, ‘What are you doing?’ and I put my hands at her knees and pushed outward.”
S supposedly then attempted to end the massage, and Davis said he had no problem with that: “That was fine with me cause I was gonna do the same.”
Davis claimed to then tell the manager, “BA,” what had just happened. No follow up with BA was done by Davis, and he said the first contact with “RJ,” the co-owner of the establishment, was two days after he was arrested. There was no probation period according to Davis; rather, there was no change in his schedule, and he still regularly saw female customers with some seeking him out specifically.
The situation changed when Davis police arrested Davis on his way to work in March of 2016, two months later. The allegations scared Davis, and he became emotional recalling the moment to the court: “I’ve been around women my whole life…the fact that a woman would accuse me of that…it’s just…really stressful.”
Deputy DA Matt De Moura cross-examined the witness, trying to prove there were inconsistencies within Davis’ testimony.
De Moura referred to how after the incident involving S which Davis described as S wrapping her knee around him, Davis told RJ that nothing had happened during the massage.
De Moura kept probing as to why would Davis not bring up to RJ the story he just told in the courtroom. If Davis did, it would have appeared on S’s member profile, and yet the only thing found on the profile was the sexual battery complaint called in by S’s mother.
Lastly, De Moura confirmed with Davis that touching the genitals is in fact not ever to be part of a therapeutic massage.
Within his closing statement to the jury, inconsistency was a big theme for De Moura. He contrasted the testimonies of Davis and S, stating that S never faltered and what she said to officers and friends, and her testimony, all aligned. However, he said, Davis had holes here and there in his story.
Another point De Moura stressed is how Davis was in a place of trust, as a massage therapist is someone meant to look out for others’ health, and yet “a position of trust was violated.”
De Moura stated Davis attempted to disguise his sexual desires through the massage, waiting until the perfect moment to touch S inappropriately.
Finally, De Moura attacked what Gocke’s whole defense case rested on – a good reputation.
“[Someone may have] great public relations, but in private do things not so reputable.”
Gocke countered with his closing statement, falling back on Davis’ reputation before the incident, referring to all the testimonies from close acquaintances Davis knew through his work.
“He had a stellar reputation and wants to help people, why would he throw it away?”
Before ending his closing statement, Gocke rebutted De Moura’s claim that S was nothing but consistent, stating that it simply does not make sense for her to allege Davis put his erect penis against both of her feet for at least 10 minutes, but he then also held up a sheet and turned away to give her privacy while she flipped over to her stomach.
In one last remark to the jury before they left to discuss the evidence, De Moura left them with a question summing up the issue surrounding the allegations: “Can someone with a good reputation never deviate from that? Can they step out of line?”