Fulton County Courthouse (Jason R. Bennitt/Daily Report)
A Fulton County judge has sentenced a former massage therapist to 25 years in prison following his conviction for aggravated sexual battery.
William Charles Stringfellow, 35, was charged after being accused of fondling and performing “various sexual acts” upon a young woman at a Massage Envy franchise in December 2010, according to a release from the office of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
A friend had paid for the 21-year-old victim to have a massage session as a birthday present, it said, “a first time experience for her.”
Once inside the private massage room, Stringfellow “proceeded to massage the victim and shortly afterwards began to touch her inappropriately,” it said, first fondling her and forcibly performing various sexual acts “even after she repeatedly told him to ‘stop.’”
The victim went to a hospital and called police; Stringfellow was arrested after an “extensive investigation,” the release said.
The case went to trial March 10, and the jury deliberated from Thursday, March 13 through Monday, March 17 before returning a guilty verdict, according to DA spokeswoman Yvette Brown.
On Thursday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle sentenced Stringfellow to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison, followed by life on probation. Stringfellow must also register a sex offender, Brown said.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Brian Ross, assisted by Senior Assistant DA John Williams and Senior DA Investigator Cindy Williamson, all from the Crimes against Women and Children Unit, the release said.
Stringfellow’s attorney, Fulton County Public Defender Kathryn Elwart, wrote in an e-mail, “Mr. Stringfellow maintains his innocence and plans to appeal his conviction.”
Stringfellow faces criminal charges in a similar incident that allegedly occurred two months later, in February 2011, at the same Massage Envy franchise in the Camp Creek Marketplace II shopping center.
That incident also is the subject of a civil suit in Fulton County State Court. According to the complaint in the civil case, the Jane Doe plaintiff was receiving a massage from Stringfellow when he assaulted her by placing his fingers in her vagina.
“Doe grabbed Stringfellow’s hand and made him stop,” the complaint said.
Stringfellow then pulled down the sheet covering the woman and began massaging her breast, at which point she grabbed his arm and started crying.
“Stringfellow then sternly told Plaintiff he would meet her in the hallway,” it said.
When Doe got dressed and left the room, Stringfellow met her and told her she “must have really needed that,” the complaint said, then tried to sell her a Massage Envy membership.
“Since then, Massage Envy continues to send Doe e-mail coupons even after she has requested, in writing, that they that they stop sending he such offers,” it said.
The complaint notes that Stringfellow had been accused of sexually assaulting another Massage Envy patron in December 2010, but remained employed there.
The civil suit names Stringfellow and the franchiser, ME Camp Creek, as defendants.
The attorney for ME Camp Creek, Mabry McClelland partner James Budd, was unavailable.
Jane Doe’s attorney in that case, Conley Griggs Partin partner Ranse Partin, said Stringfellow—who has never entered a response to the suit—had been dodging being served.
“We were monitoring the criminal case; in fact, we were able to serve Mr. Stringfellow when he appeared for trial,” Partin said. “He had been evading service.”
Partin said the guilty verdict bolsters his client’s case.
“This confirms the allegations we’ve made all along: that they had an employee who was a danger to their clients. He was arrested and charged in the first instance, and the business allowed him to remain working there during the pendency of those charges.”
Brown said Stringfellow has been indicted for the second alleged assault, but the case has not been set for trial.