Federal Way Municipal Court Judge David Larson asked the defendant if he remembered him.
Larson had sentenced Jianxun Xu, the then-licensed massage therapist, in June 2017 for the fourth-degree assault of a 19-year-old woman Xu massaged in 2016 at the Happy Foot Massage in Federal Way.
“I remember you too,” Larson told 54-year-old Xu during another sentencing hearing for Xu on Nov. 20 for the fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation of a second victim. “I go through about 300 or 400 hearings a week and I remember you from when I sentenced you.”
Larson remembers the 2017 trial, Xu’s defense and his lack of massage training. He remembers Xu “talking about the fact that you didn’t know massaging breasts was sexual; I told you it was.”
Larson heard the testimony and thought: “Well, maybe he’s right. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe he got too close and didn’t mean it. So I gave you some benefit of the doubt.”
Xu was convicted of the 2017 charges and Larson sentenced him to 15 days of electronic home monitoring in lieu of 15 days of jail. The judge also ordered him to surrender his massage license.
“There was a lot of trust that went into that decision,” Larson said. He added: “I tell defendants all the time, ‘Don’t make me regret it.’ Well, you made me regret it.”
While Xu was on probation, he went on to work as an unlicensed massage therapist at the Oriental Massage at The Commons mall in Federal Way in 2018, where he again sexually assaulted two women on Feb. 9, 2018 and March 6, 2018. He was charged in both incidents with fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation; he subsequently pleaded guilty to both counts.
During Xu’s hearing Nov. 20, Larson sentenced him to 349 says in jail for the February 2018 assault.
But for his upcoming sentencing hearing on Jan. 24 for the March 2018 incident, Larson faces a difficult decision: Give Xu two more years of jail time at the city prosecutor’s request, or sentence him to six months of jail time and treatment, per the defense’s request.
“These are tough cases,” Larsen said during the Nov. 20 sentencing hearing. The Mirror obtained the court recordings for that hearing via a public records request.
Victims speak out
During the Nov. 20 hearing, the victim in the February 2018 assault declined to make a statement. However, city prosecutor Charlyn Rees said the woman “emphasized to me that if this defendant is placed on probation, that would be an absolute travesty of justice because he was on probation at the time he sexually assaulted her.”
The woman had reported to mall security that she went to Oriental Massage for a back massage, according to Federal Way Municipal Court documents. During a massage, Xu, who was only supposed to massage her back, massaged her inner thighs and his hands came close to her vagina. She told police he then reached over her shoulders and inside her shirt and bra and began massaging her breasts. She said he did this very quickly and had to use some force because she was laying on her stomach.
She told police she immediately pressed down to keep his hands from continuing and began to move backwards to stop him. After she paid for the massage and left the store, she sat in her car in the parking lot for some time because she felt “violated, disgusted and scared,” court documents continue. She reported the incident to mall security and later identified Xu through a photo montage.
The woman in the March 2018 incident spoke before the court on Nov. 20. That day, the woman went to the business for a massage.
“He abused my person,” she said through a Spanish interpreter. “He knows what he did. He touched my body. I felt ashamed. I felt pain, because I don’t speak English, I told him that my leg hurt.”
She said Xu put his hands inside of her underwear and touched her buttocks. He also touched her breasts with his elbow. According to the police report, Xu also placed his elbow between the cheeks of her buttocks and pressed down very hard. He continued pushing so hard that his elbow pressed into her vaginal area, the report continues.
“It had a big impact on my life because after this happened I’m always in fear,” she said.
The massage also injured her, causing inflammation of her sciatic nerve, according to court documents.
She paid for her massage and then proceeded to take a photo of the suspect as she stood outside the movie theater, court documents continue. She later identified Xu through a photo montage.
According to the Federal Way police report, police found out about the February incident while they were investigating the latter case. Mall security alerted police that they had received another complaint in February for inappropriate touching at the Oriental Massage.
During the Nov. 20 sentencing hearing, city prosecutor Charlyn Rees asked judge Larsen to consider two years of jail time for Xu at his sentencing hearing on Jan. 24.
“Your honor, this defendant is a predator,” Rees said. “He preys upon women in the most vulnerable, intimate way when they are in a submissive capacity at his mercy.”
Rees said there is no assurance, other than incarceration, “that we can stop him from future risk.”
She noted the massage industry is rampant with this type of abuse, citing a recent Mirror article in which a woman told police that a massage therapist inappropriately touched her private area during a massage at Essential Massage last October.
“ … The consequences need to be significant enough to dissuade this defendant from future conduct, but similar defendants who might create similar conduct,” Rees said.
However, defense attorney Philip Petersen argued that Xu is amenable to treatment. Xu completed a psycho-sexual evaluation in which the evaluator noted Xu did not have proper training and “may not actually know how to properly perform a massage.”
“Part of the complication to this case is on those particular days … while Mr. Xu was giving the massage, it was never brought to his attention that he was doing anything inappropriate,” Petersen told the judge. “It wasn’t until … he was contacted by the police that he found out what was being alleged and at that point he had no idea who these people were.”
Petersen said it wasn’t uncommon for Xu to give 10-15 massages per day without receiving any complaints. However, he noted his client accepts responsibility for his actions and Xu agreed to the evaluation to show the court he was being proactive in this situation.
“The city’s recommendation is that he serve an extreme amount of jail time, which doesn’t really attempt to serve the public interest in that the assessment says he is amenable to treatment,” Petersen said.
He continued if the “city truly has concerns about him being a sexual predator, then he should get the treatment to fix that. He’s open to doing the treatment … he wants to show the court that he can be in compliance with these conditions.”
Petersen recommended six months of jail time for Xu, followed by time served on electronic monitoring, as well as for Xu to begin treatment immediately.
Rees noted that Xu completed a polygraph that detected deception when he said he did not sexually assault these women. Judge Larsen added that in the evaluator’s report, she felt Xu was being dishonest.
Petersen said ultimately the evaluator still finds Xu amenable to treatment.
Xu, who relocated to California following the assaults, worked in a restaurant and as an Uber driver.
“It doesn’t give me any sense of comfort that you’re an Uber driver because you’re alone in cars with people,” Larsen said Nov. 20 before sentencing him to 349 days in jail.
Xu declined to address the court. His defense attorney asked the judge if Xu could return to California to handle his personal matters, including figuring out what to do with his personal belongings at his apartment. However, Larsen denied his request and said Xu would be remanded following the hearing.
For Xu’s sentencing hearing on Jan. 24, Larsen said the burden was on the defense to submit to the court the polygraph Xu took and ensure the evaluator’s report was adequate. Peterson noted the polygraph was not included in the evaluator’s report as there was an oversight.
“If I’m being asked to put him away for an additional two years essentially, I want to make sure I have an accurate tool,” Larsen explained.
He said if Xu’s not amenable to treatment, then two more years in jail is appropriate; if he is then some amount of jail time with treatment is appropriate.
“If it upsets anybody, I apologize, that’s the last thing I want to do, but I don’t want to make the wrong decision,” Larsen said. “The reason I don’t want to make the wrong decision, I keep thinking of if I put him in jail for three years, what happens two weeks, three weeks, four weeks after he’s out? Or a year or two years or whatever. That’s the nagging thing.”