Powell masseur convicted of sexual assault

Posted 9/6/11

The woman, in her early 20s and getting massages for relief from painful medical conditions, testified the assault was unexpected and hurt.

“Mr. Solis himself has taken away any defense in this case,” said Deputy Park County Attorney Tim …

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Powell masseur convicted of sexual assault


A local masseur chose not to testify in his own defense at a Park County jury trial, but his words were used against him anyway.

Jaime Solis, 46, of Ralston, was convicted by a 12-member jury on two counts of second-degree sexual assault on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The conviction was based in part on a secretly-taped conversation with the young woman he assaulted during an April 2010 massage.

The woman, in her early 20s and getting massages for relief from painful medical conditions, testified the assault was unexpected and hurt.

“Mr. Solis himself has taken away any defense in this case,” said Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt in his closing argument to the jury, adding, “Just take what came from the defendant’s own mouth ... he acknowledged every single aspect.”

In the tape, played twice for the jury, Solis repeatedly apologizes for sticking his fingers “inside her,” says “there’s no excuse” for what he did and that she must “feel horrible.”

“I got carried away with something that I thought was something that we both enjoyed,” Solis says on the roughly six-minute recording.

One female juror, who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said the taped conversation was “definitely” persuasive to her and other jurors.

“Some said that that was the key piece, because it pretty much otherwise would have been a he-said, she-said,” the juror said.

But while the evidence of Solis’ actions that day appeared “quite clear and substantial,” she said sorting out whether the actions met the definition of the crimes he was charged with was more difficult.

Those legal questions were the crux of the defense advanced by Solis’ court-appointed attorney, Nick Beduhn of Cody.

The counts, both stemming from the single incident, separately say that when the assault occurred Solis was 1) providing “treatment” to the victim in a way inconsistent with reasonable medical practice and 2) was in a “position of authority” that he used to make the woman submit to the assault.

Beduhn said the facts didn’t fit the statutes, asking for acquittals on both counts.

He argued that Solis, being in a profession not licensed by the state of Wyoming, couldn’t have provided “treatment” as laid out in state law. He argued the law is intended to apply only to medical professionals, such as doctors and chiropractors.

Blatt, however, noted in his argument that the law refers to any “actor” providing treatment, not a “provider.” He added that the young woman’s doctor suggested massage as treatment for her pain.

District Court Judge Steven Cranfill had rejected Beduhn’s argument mid-trial, when the attorney asked the judge to dismiss the case. Cranfill said the lack of a license might not make a difference in the public’s mind, as massage practitioners “hold themselves out as providers.”

“The public certainly relies upon these providers as professionals,” Cranfill said.

The juror who spoke to the Tribune said there was fairly quick agreement about it being treatment, but jurors wrestled over whether Solis was in and used a position of authority.

Beduhn said a masseur is, in effect, an employee of the client. He said society hasn’t given massage practitioners the same level of authority as licensed professionals.

With it being just the two of them, her mostly naked and extremely vulnerable, him older, “this is exactly what position of authority is all about,” countered Blatt.

The jury took almost exactly two hours to render their guilty verdicts.

The victim had received a number of massages from Solis over the previous six months, setting up appointments when her pain demanded. On this April day last year, her hips and knees were hurting.

They met at his Powell office that Thursday evening, she said, and the massage went as usual until she turned onto her back.

Solis was focusing on her hips when she “suddenly” realized his fingers “were inside me” and he began rubbing her there and then her breasts, she said.

“I felt sick and I couldn’t move,” the woman testified, crying some on the stand. “Couldn’t make any sound come out of my mouth.... I was frozen.”

As Solis left the room, “He said, ‘I hope you enjoyed this, it’s one of my non-traditional massages,’” she said.

The woman dressed, paid Solis the standard $25 for the hour and left, before breaking down in tears in her car a short ways away, she said.

After feeling sick again on Friday, she went to her hometown and was essentially by herself until Sunday, she said.

“By the end of church, I couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “I couldn’t be silent anymore, I guess.”

A trusted pastor told her to tell her parents. She did that night, when they returned home from an out-of-state trip. The next morning, they went to Powell police.

Beduhn questioned why it took her several days before telling anyone, why she didn’t do anything to stop Solis and how his fingers could “suddenly” move to an inappropriate area.

Dave Brown, a recently-retired Powell Police Department investigator who handled the case, testified that the woman’s account of freezing up during the assault was not unusual.

“I’ve seen that in a lot of cases,” said Brown, who’s investigated more than 130 reports of sexual assault, adding, “In this case, she didn’t know what to do, which is a normal reaction.”

When the young woman met with Brown that Monday morning, he directed her to try placing a recorded call to Solis. Before the victim finished explaining what she was calling about, Solis said he was sorry.

Solis went on to say he thought she’d been OK with him getting close to her crotch before, so when she came back “I just figured I’ll go ahead and do that.”

“I shouldn’t have done that and I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s about the closest explanation I can get.”

Solis said other women enjoyed those kinds of massages. He offered a free “actual massage” if it would help her.

When Brown interviewed Solis that Wednesday, not telling him about the recorded call, Solis denied the young woman’s claims. In a written statement, Solis said he only did what the woman had asked, and would never risk his reputation by doing what she said he did.

About a dozen family members and friends supporting Solis attended last week’s Monday-Tuesday trial.

Solis called one witness in his defense, a Cody woman who said he massaged sensitive areas on her body and “never, never” did anything inappropriate. The woman said she considered Solis to be a trusted friend.

After conferring with Beduhn, Solis told Judge Cranfill he would not be testifying in his defense, as “it’s best that I don’t.”

In his closing argument, Beduhn said Solis’ comments on the recorded conversation sounded “like a 12-year-old boy who kissed a girl and all of a sudden she didn’t like it.” Blatt objected and after an out-of-court discussion between the attorneys and judge, Beduhn told the jury he would “leave that recording to your interpretation.”

In an interview after the trial, Blatt said he objected because “Mr. Beduhn was getting very close to testifying for his client.”

“If he (Beduhn) wanted to explain it, put him (Solis) on the stand and let me cross-examine him,” Blatt said of his argument.

Solis faces two to 40 years of prison time for the two counts. Sentencing will likely take place in four to six weeks.

Solis remains barred from performing any massages, a bond condition that’s been in place since his initial arrest.

A nondisclosure order in the case prohibits the release of any information likely to identify the victim, a principle the Tribune follows with allegations of sexual assault.