tampabay.com

Jury hits wall in spa sex case

A former masseuse is accused of battering a client while giving her a massage at a world-renowned Largo spa.

By CHRIS TISCH
Published August 11, 2006


LARGO - A jury couldn't agree this week whether a former masseuse at the Safety Harbor Spa sexually battered a client to whom he was giving a full body massage.

Jurors deliberated about six hours after a two-day trial before announcing Thursday that they were deadlocked in the case against David S. Rutherford, 35.

Prosecutors charged Rutherford with sexual battery, a second-degree felony that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. They said Rutherford used his fingers to batter the woman as he gave her a full-body Swedish massage at the world-renowned spa in August 2004.

"It's disappointing, but we'll end up, I'm sure, trying it again," prosecutor Michael Marr said.

Rutherford took the stand in his own defense. He says the woman, who was 50 at the time of the incident, initiated the sexual contact, said defense attorney Roger Futerman.

The woman, who was vacationing from New York when the incident occurred, testified that she was dozing on the massage table and, when she awoke, she found Rutherford was battering her, the lawyers said.

Rutherford, who has been out of jail on $30,000 bail since January 2005, gave up his masseuse license after the incident, Marr said. Rutherford had been licensed about four months when the incident occurred.

In October 2002, another woman staying at the resort reported that she was sexually battered in her room. The woman, who was vacationing with her husband and three children, said she was attacked in her room by a man who had seen selling coupons at the spa the day before. Investigators determined the man was neither an employee nor a guest, but they never made an arrest.

The resort and spa was built in 1926 at a freshwater spring along the shore of Old Tampa Bay. It has a long history of pampering celebrities and is considered one of the top spas in the country.