Timonium Massage Envy sued amid sexual assault claims

Two women who say they were sexually assaulted during massages at a spa in Timonium have sued the business and a former employee.

The women told Baltimore County Police that they were assaulted by a male massage therapist at the Massage Envy location in Timonium in November 2015.

Timothy Snyder, 29, has been acquitted of criminal charges, but the women filed civil suits against him and Massage Envy Spa Timonium. One suit is scheduled for civil trial in April.

Massage Envy, the nation’s largest spa franchise operation, is facing growing scrutiny for alleged sexual misconduct. The online news site Buzzfeed reported last month that more than 180 people have filed lawsuits, police reports and state board complaints against the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based business, individual franchises and employees.

The company, which has 1,199 locations in the United States and 30 in Maryland, says it has begun reviewing employee files to make sure background checks were completed and references checked, and to have a third party re-screen its 20,000 licensed massage therapists.

The company also says it is creating an advisory council to “maintain and implement strong safety and support standards,” and working with the anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN to review “policies and procedures — including reporting and investigation.”

“We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and to those who suffered, I am deeply sorry,” CEO Joseph C. Magnacca said in a letter on the company’s website.

Snyder was charged with second-degree assault and fourth degree sex-offense in the alleged assaults of three women in October and November 2015. He was found not guilty in two trials.

Two of the women filed a civil lawsuit against Snyder and the Timonium spa last December. One case was “resolved,” said attorney Emily Malarkey, who represents both women. The other is scheduled to go to trial in April.

The women said they suffered “severe physical and mental anguish and emotional and psychological pain and suffering.” They sought damages of more than $75,000.

The suit contends that the Timonium spa should “rigorously screen” massage therapists before hiring, train employees on proper techniques, promptly investigate allegations of misconduct and report them to police and the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which oversees massage licenses.

Snyder could not be reached for comment. Messages left at a number listed for his family and with his attorneys in the civil and criminal cases were not returned. A call to the Timonium spa, a call to its attorney in the civil cases and an email to Massage Envy’s national media contact were not returned.

Snyder’s attorney in the criminal cases questioned whether Snyder was wrongly accused to get a paid settlement from Massage Envy.

“He’s a good man with no criminal history,” attorney Kimberly Rothwell said. “I do believe he was not guilty, and I believe the jury made the right decision.”

Rothwell said Snyder testified in both criminal cases that he did what he was trained to do.

“He said he gave a normal massage,” Rothwell said.

Jennifer Dodson, one of the two women who sued Snyder and Timonium Massage Envy, gave a different account of her appointment of Nov. 17, 2015, at that trial, she recalled.

The Baltimore Sun generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assaults. But Dodson said she wanted to speak publicly about her experience.

Dodson, 31, told The Sun she was a member of the spa for five years and regularly received 90-minute massages with no problems. Dodson said the one given by Snyder seemed normal, too, until he began massaging her inner upper thigh area, according to the civil complaint she filed as Jane Doe. He then put his hand under her underwear and assaulted her, the complaint said.

Once she got home, she discussed the incident with her husband, and she called police, Dodson told The Sun. A police officer went to her home and took a report that evening.

The day after Dodson’s massage, Latonia Johnson had an appointment with Snyder.

Johnson, who also said she wanted to speak publicly about her experience, told police that Snyder removed a sheet covering her buttocks and then groped her genital area and buttocks, the complaint said.

Snyder was criminally charged in the incidents involving Dodson and Johnson, as well as a third woman, according to his criminal defense attorney and the county state’s attorney’s office. A judge divided the women’s complaints into three trials.

In the first two trials, involving Dodson and the other woman, Snyder testified that the alleged assaults never happened. He was found not guilty. Johnson’s case was placed on the inactive docket in October 2016 because prosecutors felt the evidence was similar to the first two cases.

Snyder’s massage license was suspended by the State Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners in December 2015 and remains suspended.

Dodson and Johnson sued Snyder and Massage Envy in December 2016. Dodson subsequently settled her claim.

Johnson’s lawsuit against Snyder and Massage Envy is scheduled to go to trial in April.

This story has been updated to clarify a comment by Emily Malarkey.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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