Hilton Head massage therapist charged with inappropriate touching

astice@islandpacket.comApril 26, 2012 

A Hilton Head Island massage therapist is facing felony assault charges after two female clients accused him of inappropriately touching them on separate occasions over the past year.

The first woman reported Darrell Lewis, 30, of Art of Massage on New Orleans Road in July 2011.

The woman, who was vacationing on Hilton Head at the time, told Beaufort County sheriff's deputies that she was starting to fall asleep during her massage when Lewis touched her inappropriately, according to an incident report.

She asked him if it was part of a normal massage and he said no. The woman told Lewis to stop and left the room. She told no one at the business and left Lewis a $20 tip, according to the report.

Deputies interviewed other employees at Art of Massage, all of whom said the woman had made no complaints. On his lawyer's advice, Lewis refused to take a polygraph test, according to the report.

The investigator discussed with the woman "the feasibility of successfully prosecuting a case without an admission by the suspect," and she decided not to pursue charges. The woman said she "would be happy just to have the incident on record in case it happened to someone else," according to the report.

On Feb. 9, a second woman filed similar claims.

She said she was falling asleep during her hour-long appointment, when Lewis began touching her inappropriately, according to a separate incident report. She told deputies Lewis also placed her hand over his genitals.

She told Lewis to stop, got dressed and left to notify authorities of the incident. The investigator informed the first woman of the second incident, and she also decided to pursue charges, according to the reports.

Lewis was charged Feb. 10 with two counts of felony first-degree assault and battery. Bond was set at $5,000 for each charge, and Lewis was released on his own recognizance, according to the Beaufort County Detention Center.

Both charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, said Sgt. Robin McIntosh.

Lewis was not charged with criminal sexual conduct because the allegations do not meet the standard for that law, which requires sexual battery, according to 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office spokesman Daniel Brownstein. According to state law, first-degree assault and battery includes nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing, with lewd and lascivious intent.

Lewis' case is still pending, Brownstein said.

Attempts to reach Lewis at Art of Massage on Thursday were unsuccessful.

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