Massage therapist faces new allegations

MIDDLEBURY — A former Middlebury massage therapist has pleaded innocent to an additional 30 misdemeanor charges of voyeurism and one count of possessing child pornography in connection with an ongoing investigation of his alleged use of video equipment to record women clients in various states of undress at Rogers Relaxing Massage Therapy LLC, formerly located at 31 Court St.
Roger A. Schmidt entered his plea on July 2 in Addison County Superior Court, criminal division, and was released on conditions. This latest court action comes after Schmidt pleaded innocent this past April to an initial four counts of voyeurism for having allegedly videotaped four clients using a hidden camera at his massage office.
And Schmidt could face still more charges in the case, according to Middlebury Police Det. Kris Bowdish. She confirmed police have in evidence another 25 video files of massage clients who have yet to be identified. Middlebury police (388-3191) want to hear from any of Schmidt’s past clients who have yet to make themselves known to authorities.
Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Rebecca Otey said some of the as-yet-unidentified victims could be visitors or Middlebury College students who have left the area and not yet heard about the ongoing investigation.
Victims can take some solace in the fact that the unauthorized video doesn’t appear to have made it onto the Internet.
“At this point, there’s no indication (the video) itself has gone beyond the defendant’s computer,” Otey said on Thursday.
Middlebury police launched their investigation back on April 6, when a woman reported she believed she’d been videotaped while undressed during an April 1 visit to Schmidt’s office. The victim had visited Schmidt to get relief from a sore back. While in the changing room, she noted two mirrors on the wall that “seemed out of place” because they were placed so low to the ground, according to court records.
At the end of the massage, the woman said she heard a noise she traced to a “black USB charger” plugged into an outlet, according to Bowdish’s court affidavit. The victim said she became “scared” and “uncomfortable” with the notion that her privacy might have been violated, to the extent she quickly covered her private areas with her hands and dressed very quickly, according to court records.
The woman said she returned later that day to Schmidt’s business saying she believed she had left a piece of jewelry in the dressing room, according to Bowdish’s affidavit. While there, she told authorities she noticed the USB device had been removed from the wall.
Bowdish on April 10 obtained search warrants for Schmidt’s home, his business and his vehicle, according to court records. Items seized during that search included an Apple iPad, a Lenovo ThinkPad computer, five USB drives of varying sizes, a Digital Spy Pen hidden camera and a cell phone, according to Bowdish’s affidavit.
Preliminary forensic evaluation of the evidence by Bristol police Officer Josh Otey yielded 70 digital video and image files that appeared to have been taken without consent or knowledge of the customers involved, according to court records.
The alleged voyeurism infractions for which Schmidt has been charged to date from August 2016 to this past April, according to court records. Each misdemeanor voyeurism charge carries a penalty of up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
The possession of child pornography charge stems from a forensic analysis of evidence allegedly found on an Apple iPad computer seized during a police search of Schmidt’s home on April 10, according to court records. Police said they found a 30-second video of a naked girl being subjected to sadomasochistic abuse, according to court records. Bowdish and a physician from University of Vermont Medical Center both estimated the girl to be of middle school age (around 13), according to the affidavit.
Conviction on a charge of misdemeanor possession of child porn carries a penalty of up to two years in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000, according to state law.
Court documents detailing the charges against Schmidt show a repeated pattern of women clients being asked to wear minimal clothing and in many cases expose themselves during massage sessions they hoped would yield pain relief. The victims told police they had no idea at the time they were being secretly videotaped.
Some of the alleged victims were taped multiple times, according to Bowdish. Schmidt is alleged to have asked some of his victims to not wear their bras for their massage, according to court records, and some of the video footage shows Schmidt working on women patients with their breasts exposed. One of the victims told police she asked Schmidt to allow her to keep her breasts covered during a second visit, and she “could tell that Schmidt was disappointed,” according to court records.
Another woman told police she decided to keep her bra and underwear on under her sheet during a second visit.
“(Schmidt) asked me to remove the sheet and when he did I heard an audible sigh from him,” the woman told police, according to court records. “I could sense he was irritated and I knew from the timing of the sigh that it was because of my bra and underwear.”
Another victim told police she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, thus making Schmidt’s alleged infraction even more emotionally painful for her, according to court records.
A few of the victims interviewed by Bowdish alleged that Schmidt removed — without asking — the sheet that covered their otherwise nude bodies.
“I was … uncomfortable because (Schmidt) would touch me too close to my breasts and my privates,” one of the victims told Bowdish, according to court records.
Some of the women alleged Schmidt placed them in awkward positions on the massage table.
“Another time, Roger had me sit on the massage table and lean all the way back until I was basically upside down,” a victim told to Bowdish, according to her affidavit. “The sheet was not covering my upper body and breasts and I felt scared and vulnerable and exposed. I tried to bring my arms up to cover my breasts and my body in general; I think it was a protective instinct. (Schmidt) moved my arms away from my body and over my head and told me to relax.”
Another victim made a similar allegation to police. She told authorities Schmidt had asked her to lean back against his body and rest her head on his shoulder, at a time when the sheet had slipped off her body, according to court records.
“It did not feel okay,” the woman told police, according to the affidavit.
“It felt to me like he enjoyed this process too much. Like he was taking pleasure in being my only support and he liked how much power he had over me at the time.”
Bowdish interviewed a woman who told her she stopped seeking Schmidt’s services after her first visit because he had asked her to lay on the massage table with her breasts exposed, saying it would better allow him to treat her right shoulder, according to court records. The woman said it became clear to her during the procedure there was no reason for her to have had her chest exposed, according to Bowdish’s affidavit.
Other comments gleaned from victims, according to court records, included:
Schmidt is alleged to have videotaped two generations of one family, according to the affidavit.
“I feel angry and betrayed and violated by what (Schmidt) did to me,” one of the victims told police, according to court records. “My anger is compounded by the fact that I recommended him to my daughter and he also violated her. I have some guilt about also recommending a friend to him.”
Deputy State’s Attorney Otey is hoping to get a final forensics report on Schmidt’s computer equipment by the end of this month. Schmidt is slated to appear for a Sept. 17 status conference on the case at the Frank Mahady Courthouse.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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