A third woman has come forward against an Omaha massage therapist, accusing him of sexually assaulting her during a prenatal massage.
The 34-year-old Omaha woman called prosecutors and police after reading a World-Herald account of two other women accusing Christopher Sampson, owner of Sol System Massage near 81st and Maple Streets, of sexual assault.
A day after reading The World-Herald’s April account, the 34-year-old woman went to Omaha police and shared a story consistent with allegations detailed in the newspaper’s story. She told police that she went for a prenatal massage — and that Sampson’s hands wandered, rubbing her vagina over her underwear. Because the woman was pregnant, such touching would constitute a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, under state law.
Sampson, 44, 6-2, 380 pounds, has not returned phone calls but has denied wrongdoing through an attorney. The latest allegation delayed his trial, which had been set to take place this month.
In the first of the three cases, in 2016, the Omaha City Prosecutor’s Office allowed Sampson to plead to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge and retain his massage license. He since has been stripped of his license, though he still runs his business.
Last month, he told a caller seeking a massage at Sol System Massage that he couldn’t give it but that he employed three other massage therapists who could. The setup has prompted attorneys who have worked with the women to question why the state allows masseurs to continue to run their businesses, even after they’ve been stripped of their licenses.
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Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Omaha City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse have noted that lawyers who lose their law licenses cannot own law firms. Likewise, doctors who lose their medical degrees can’t run clinics.
Yet the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said nothing precludes Sampson from running Sol System Massage.
“The establishment itself must be licensed, but the owner isn’t required to be a massage therapist,” said HHS spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Sampson was still answering the phone listed on Sol System Massage’s website.
The latest police report concerned alleged misconduct in February 2017, just five months after the state decided to allow Sampson to continue to hold a massage therapy license.
In 2016, Kuhse’s office, with the consent of the victim, reduced his misdemeanor sexual assault charge to disturbing the peace for sexually touching a 21-year-old client during a massage. After that plea, state HHS officials made him sign an “assurance of compliance” that he would not “commit any act of sexual abuse, misconduct or exploitation, including making comments, gestures or physical contacts of a sexual nature, in his professional relationship with his clients.”
Three months after the February 2017 massage, prosecutors allege, another woman in her seventh month of pregnancy said Sampson sexually assaulted her.
In May 2017, Sampson told the 32-year-old woman to strip naked, saying she shouldn’t wear underpants because he would need to dig in to her lower back. He placed a bedsheet over her but then eventually removed it.
That woman alleged that he asked her about her sex life and told her that his clients sometimes get sexual gratification out of his massages. Frozen with fear, the woman said Sampson proceeded to cup her breasts and penetrate her private parts with his fingers.
HHS officials have since stripped him of his massage therapy license. Prosecutors are determining whether to file additional charges in relation to the latest woman to come forward.
In the pending first-degree sexual assault case, prosecutor Amy Schuchman has filed a motion to present evidence of the latest woman’s allegations as prosecutors try to establish a pattern of behavior by Sampson.
Another masseur, Melvin Buffington, 62, was sentenced earlier this month to the equivalent of 10 to 12 years in prison for two convictions that came out of alleged assaults on 19 women, ranging in age from 18 to 58, at Oasis Massage & Spa.
If convicted of the May 2017 allegations, Sampson would face three to 50 years in prison.
Three women are lined up to testify against Sampson. Three women spoke at Buffington’s sentencing hearing.
“What once was a favorite experience turned into fear to dread to loathing,” one of Buffington’s victims said.
A new trial date has not been set for Sampson.