A sports massage therapist has been acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman during a treatment session.
Valeriy Malyha (48) of Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin went on trial in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this week, where he pleaded not guilty to one count of sexually assaulting the woman at Artane Medical Centre in Dublin on January 24th, 2015.
The three day trial heard allegations that during a therapy session Mr Malyha removed the woman’s underwear and touched her vagina, before kissing her bare bottom and saying he “just couldn’t help himself”.
The jury of nine men and three women returned the unanimous verdict of not guilty on Friday after just under two hours of deliberating. The woman, who was in court for the verdict, cried when the verdict was read out.
After thanking the jury for their service, Judge Karen O’Connor lifted reporting restrictions that prevented the media from naming Mr Malyha during the trial.
In her closing speech to the jury, defence counsel, Tara Burns SC, said the allegations against Mr Malyha were "incredible" and "unbelievable". She said her client was a qualified sports massage therapist.
“He is not some back alley person who, on the sly, is providing massages to individuals and individual women,” Ms Burns said. “He is a qualified professional person.”
Ms Burns told the court the woman’s evidence “fell apart” upon cross-examination. “The process of how she alleges this occurred is simply unbelievable,” she said.
Referring to the woman’s evidence that the man pulled down her underpants while she was on the massage table, Ms Burns said: “This is an incredible thing to have happened.”
Ms Burns also questioned whether it was believable that the woman, having been sexually assaulted, would then allow Mr Malyha to put back on her underpants, or that she would practice physio exercises in front of him, as the trial heard.
She said the woman’s allegation “does not hold water” and could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The woman told the court that her partner received treatment from Mr Malyha and he recommended she attend his practice for a sports-related injury to her neck and shoulder. “I thought he was a physiotherapist,” she said.
She said nothing inappropriate occurred during the first few sessions, but on January 24, she alleged Mr Malyha pulled down her underwear as she lay on the massage table, before touching her vagina.
“That’s when I knew this isn’t normal. This doesn’t happen when you go to see a physio,” the woman said through her tears.
She said she told Mr Malyha: “I don’t like that” and he removed his hand “straight away”. She said he then kissed her bottom while pulling up her pants.
As she was getting dressed, the woman alleged Mr Malyha told her: “Women can be so cruel”, before adding: “Your tongues are very sharp”.
The woman said she was “petrified”.
Mr Malyha did not give evidence at trial. In his interview with gardaí, he denied the entire incident. He said he did not pull down the woman’s underwear, or touch her inappropriately.
He maintained that he simply gave her a deep massage on the day in question.
The court heard that six days after the alleged offence, Mr Malyha texted the woman saying he hoped she wasn’t “upset” with him, and saying he would understand if she decided not to see him again.
Prosecution barrister Maurice Coffey BL told the jury this was an "acknowledgment that something happened that shouldn't have happened". But Ms Burns said the jury could accept Mr Malyha's explanation that he was concerned the massage had been painful for the woman.