Jurors convicted a Minneapolis man Tuesday of sexually assaulting a client and forcing her to touch his genitals when he worked as a massage therapist in Roseville.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for just about an hour before convicting Brandon L. Palmer, 32, in Ramsey County District Court of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
According to courtroom testimony and a criminal complaint, the female client pulled away when she felt Palmer’s penis, but Palmer gripped her arm tighter, pulled it back toward him and pressed his genitals into her hand during the Feb. 7, 2013, session at Serene Body Therapy.
The woman said Palmer also rubbed her through her underwear for two minutes and tried to hug her at the end of the session.
Palmer is charged in six other cases where other female clients also allege that he touched their genitals and manipulated their arms so that they touched his penis. He faces a total of six counts each of fourth- and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The cases are pending.
Palmer’s attorney, Jennifer Congdon, tried to raise skepticism about the victims’ stories in her closing arguments Tuesday. None of them protested Palmer’s actions at the time or reported the incidents right away, she said.
Congdon said Palmer wasn’t a predator, that it was bad technique that resulted in accidental touching misinterpreted by the women. “It was simply a mistake on both parties’ parts, and carelessness on Mr. Palmer’s part,” Congdon said.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Eric Leonard said the victim in the case at trial had previously seen Palmer twice and didn’t have a problem with his technique during those visits. Palmer intentionally assaulted her on the third visit, Leonard said.
The women were scared when the assaults occurred, Leonard said. They were naked or in their underwear, and feared that speaking up or leaving would escalate the situation, he told jurors.
“They were caught off guard,” Leonard said. “Some of them talked about feeling paralyzed.”