• Sex offense charges against massage therapist dismissed on technicality

    By: Joe Bruno

    Updated:

    HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - A technicality led to a judge dismissing eight charges of sexual battery and assault on a female against a Huntersville massage therapist.

    According to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, Daniel Bonhom was originally charged with felony offenses. After warrants were served and the case was presented to the DA’s office, based on evidence, the DA’s office determined the charges should be misdemeanors.

    A new charging document was necessary to proceed, according to Meghan McDonald, community liaison coordinator for the DA’s office.

    In court Wednesday, the defense made a motion to dismiss the case based on the statute of limitations. After arguments were made, a judge granted the motion.

    [ALSO READ: 9 Investigates: The new push to help sexual assault victims in NC seek civil justice]

    The court found because the 2018 misdemeanor charging documents were filed more than two years after the offense date, the statute of limitations expired.

    According to civil court documents, the charges stem from Bonhom’s employment at an unidentified Massage Envy and the Huntersville Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa.

    Court documents say in February 2016, Bonhom “deliberately went past appropriate massage boundaries and sexually assault and battered” a woman. The woman accuser says she is one of four people with these claims. Two of the claims stem from Hand & Stone and two stem from Massage Envy.

    The woman spoke exclusively to Channel 9 but did not want to reveal her identity.  She said she got a massage to help with back pain.

    She said there were no issues during her first two appointments with Bonhom, but during the third visit, he did not keep her fully covered with a sheet.

    During her fourth visit, she claims he sexually assaulted her.

    “He reached down between my legs and I didn’t know what to do,” she said.  “I was naked in a dark room​.”

    She was prepared to testify in the criminal case and told Channel 9 she was devastated and frustrated when the charges were dismissed.

    “He's free and he's free to do this to someone else now which is the whole reason I called the police that day,” she said.

    That woman told Eyewitness News she is suing the owners of Hand & Stone Massage because she claims they did not do enough to vet Bonhom’s background or call his references.

    She wants customers to question businesses on the background check they do on employees.

    In a statement, a spokesperson for Hand & Stone said the company is aware of the civil action filed. A spokesperson says Bonhom was immediately terminated after the spa was notified of the incident. A spokesperson says Bonhom passed a background check.

    “In addition to separate Hand & Stone background checks and training, Mr. Bonhom was licensed by the state, which also performed a background check as a requirement for massage licensing – Mr. Bonhom’s license was current at the time of hiring with no indication of discipline action or public complaints,” spokesman Jack Bachinsky said. “Mr. Bonhom was an employee of the spa for less than a year.”

    According to the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy, Bonhom’s license expired in December 2017.

    According to the attorney for the board, the NCBMBT has never investigated Bonhom and at this time, massage parlors are not required to report allegations of sexual abuse.

    In 2017, North Carolina lawmakers approved a plan that would require massage businesses to be licensed and to report any allegation of sexual misconduct to a state board.

    The law is being adjusted to address concerns from the massage industry so the rules are not in place yet.

    “The Board does not currently license massage establishments but hopes to do so in the next six-12 months when the rules to implement establishment licensure which was approved by the legislature in 2017 are in effect,” Charles Wilkins, legal counsel for NCBMBT said.  “Massage Envy has filed objections to the rules and the rules are now before the NC Legislature.”

    In addition to the civil lawsuit, CMPD is investigating another claim of sexual assault at Hand & Spa.

    According to a police report filed Tuesday, a woman is accusing a male massage therapist touched her inappropriately while she received a massage.

    It’s unclear who the massage therapist is. CMPD says no arrests have been made. NCBMBT is aware of the allegations.

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