South Carolina

Hilton Head massage therapist charged with assault

Darrell Lewis
Darrell Lewis Submitted photo

A Hilton Head Island massage therapist has been charged with assault following accusations that he inappropriately touched a female client.

Darrell Lewis, 33, of Art of Massage and Yoga Therapy, was charged Friday morning with first-degree assault in connection with an Aug. 21 appointment, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

A 34-year-old woman vacationing on the island from out of state told deputies she became uncomfortable during her second massage with Lewis when his technique moved the sheet covering her lower body.

Lewis, who also goes by Louie Lewis, then inappropriately touched her genitals and tried to place her hand on top of his, the report said.

Though the victim reported the incident one week later, investigators only recently completed forensic analysis of evidence, Capt. Bob Bromage said. A warrant was obtained a few days ago, and Lewis turned himself in to the Sheriff's Office on Friday morning.

Lewis was previously charged with two other counts of first-degree assault in February 2012, in connection with massages that month and in July 2011. Both women said they were falling asleep when Lewis touched them inappropriately, the Sheriff's Office said at the time. Those charges were expunged Aug. 25, 2014.

Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton said Friday he could not comment on the expungement, but said there is no statute of limitations on the cases. "All of the information originally collected, including the statements by the first victims, is included in the current investigation," he said.

Reached Friday, Lewis' wife and owner of Art of Massage, April Lewis, said the allegations against her husband are false.

"Everyone in our local community and staff and family are very supportive of Louie and the situation and the false accusations that we're unfortunately dealing with right now," April Lewis said.

In February, the woman who alleges she was assaulted in August 2014 filed a lawsuit against Darrell Lewis, The Art of Massage LLC and The Art of Yoga LLC, seeking damages for alleged severe emotional distress following the incident.

Named only as "Jane Doe" in the Beaufort County lawsuit, she claims she was "effectively immobilized and rendered incapable of protesting or attempting to cease the assault."

The Sheriff's Office report states the woman moved Lewis' hand away, but allowed him to finish the massage because "she was frozen and in complete shock."

After the massage, the receptionist, who is related to Lewis, asked her about her experience, but the victim said nothing about the assault because she was too nervous to speak up in front of Lewis or to a member of his family, the report said.

Later that day, she called the salon to speak to Lewis' wife, but she was not there, according to the report. She told the receptionist she had been molested and planned to file a police report. The receptionist reportedly seemed upset with the victim and told her, "If you call the police, see what happens to you," before hanging up on her, the report states.

Deputies also interviewed the victim's sister, who received a massage from Lewis the week before. She said in the report that Lewis' hand brushed her underwear twice, and his massage exposed her lower body.

Though the massage made her uncomfortable, she said she thought Lewis was simply being careless and "convinced herself that she was being silly due to it only being her second massage."

Lewis, representing himself, filed a response to the victim's lawsuit May 14 denying her allegations.

Attempts to reach the victim's attorney, William Mullins McLeod Jr. of Charleston, were unsuccessful Friday.

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