A former massage therapist was charged Friday with felony sex crimes involving allegations by two female customers at a luxury hotel spa downtown last year. Prosecutors said the man, who was fired after the women’s complaints surfaced, had been accused of inappropriately touching women in two previous jobs. But the earlier allegations never resulted in criminal charges.
Prosecutors charged Joseph Mitchell, age 30, with criminal sexual assault and two counts of criminal sexual abuse after two Tennessee women said he touched them inappropriately during spa services in September.
The women, ages 42 and 34, flew to Chicago with a group of coworkers to celebrate with a client who lives in the area, prosecutors said. The older woman planned the trip and arranged for everyone to spend a day at the Chuan Spa at The Langham, 330 North Wabash, according to the state’s allegations.
Prosecutors said Mitchell reached under a towel covering the younger woman’s private areas and used his hands during her mud wrap and massage. Hotel and spa policy requires therapists to use a brush during the mud treatment as is customary, prosecutors said. At one point, Mitchell allegedly stretched the woman’s legs to her chest, exposing her private area.
The 42-year-old woman’s mud wrap and massage followed.
She told investigators that a therapist who identified himself as “Joseph” rubbed mud on her private areas with his bare hands without consent. She later drifted in and out of sleep during a massage, prosecutors said. The woman remembered feeling the therapist touch her private areas and woke up on her back uncovered and exposed, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, when she awakened, Mitchell was using his fingers in a sexual way on her private area. She repeatedly told him, “that’s not OK,” and Mitchell asked if she was talking about the pressure he was applying, prosecutors said.
Mitchell allegedly left the room, and the woman texted her husband. Mitchell was standing outside the treatment room when she walked out, prosecutors said. He allegedly told the woman, “I’m sorry that I made you feel uncomfortable.”
The woman went to the bathroom and called her husband to tell him about what happened. A co-worker who entered the bathroom saw that she was upset, and the woman told her what happened, too, prosecutors said.
Both women outcried to others and they reported the allegations to the hotel about a week later, according to prosecutors. The hotel confronted Mitchell and fired him, prosecutors said.
Chicago police investigated the allegations and looked into Mitchell’s employment history. Detectives learned that a woman made similar allegations against him when he worked as a massage therapist at a high-end fitness club downtown, prosecutors said. He was also accused of touching a female co-worker inappropriately while they were both applying for jobs at a massage service chain, according to prosecutors. He has not been charged with wrongdoing in either of those alleged incidents.
Mitchell’s private attorney, Mike Gillespie, said the criminal charges were filed after Mitchell was served with a civil suit regarding the allegations and he did not respond to requests for monetary compensation. He has two children and “absolutely no criminal background,” Gillespie said.
Prosecutors asked Judge Arthur Willis to hold Mitchell without bail, but the judge said the state did not meet the legal threshold for him to do so. Willis said the older woman was unable to identify Mitchell in a photo line-up, which weighed heavily in his decision.
The judge ordered Mitchell not to work as a massage therapist while the criminal matters are pending. He set bail at $50,000 and ordered Mitchell to go onto electronic monitoring if he posts the $5,000 deposit required for release.
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