Jurors find Kansas massage therapist guilty of sex crimes

LAWRENCE, Kan. — A jury found a massage therapist guilty Thursday of sex crimes against five people, including three female soccer players at the University of Kansas.

Jurors returned guilty verdicts on all eight counts against Lawrence massage therapist Shawn P. O’Brien, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Three of the charges accuse O’Brien of indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14 for fondling a girl who was either 9 or 10 on three occasions between 2013 and 2015.

The other five charges accuse him of sexual battery for fondling four women while giving them a massage to treat athletic-related issues between 2016 and 2019. Three of the women played for the University of Kansas soccer team. The fourth woman was a university student who was a client at his office.

O’Brien had a contract with the university to provide massage treatments to many athletes on campus. That contracted was terminated after initial charges were filed.

Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden told jurors during closing arguments that said O’Brien used his credentials as a professional massage therapist as a guise to fondle the alleged victims when he was giving them massages.

Seiden also pointed to the testimony from the soccer players who said that O’Brien fondled them while he was providing massage therapy for the team. He also noted that O’Brien claimed to not remember any of the incidents with the athletes.

The girl testified the three incidents occurred when she was sleeping over at O’Brien’s home, which occurred a few times because their families were friends, Seiden said. The girl said she didn’t realize she was being sexually abused until she was in middle school when she learned about sexual abuse.

Defense attorney Philip Sedgwick, argued that the case comes down to a “he said, she said” situation, suggesting the prosecutors did not present enough evidence to convict O’Brien. He said athletes did not complain about his methods or let him know that what he was doing made them uncomfortable.

Sedgwick pointed to testimony from O’Brien and his ex-wife, who worked with him as a massage therapist, that they had given thousands of massages over the years, and incidental contact with a woman’s genitalia was possible when placing hot stones on a woman’s groin during a massage.

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