Moncton massage therapist who had sex with patient committed misconduct, decision says

A Moncton-area massage therapist has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the College of Massage Therapists of New Brunswick discipline committee. (Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia - image credit)
A Moncton-area massage therapist has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the College of Massage Therapists of New Brunswick discipline committee. (Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia - image credit)

A former discipline committee chair for the College of Massage Therapists of New Brunswick has been found guilty of sexually abusing a patient almost seven years ago.

A decision issued last month says Moncton massage therapist Joshua Lutes committed professional misconduct by having sex with a patient.

A three-member panel discipline committee of the college issued the decision, which orders Lutes to pay a $2,500 fine. It also revoked his massage therapist membership and barred him from seeking reinstatement for five years.

"The Panel considers sexual intercourse and touching of a sexual nature to be one of the most serious types of professional misconduct committed by a regulated health professional," the unanimous decision states.

"A strong message must be sent to the profession and to the public that sexual abuse of a patient is one of the most serious forms of misconduct and will result in the most severe sanction available to the Panel."

James Matheson, a lawyer representing Lutes, declined to comment other than to say the decision will be appealed in court.

Josh Lutes/LinkedIn
Josh Lutes/LinkedIn

The decision found Lutes had sex with a patient in September 2016 and exchanged various Facebook Messenger texts with her of a sexual nature.

Lutes, a registered massage therapist since 2012, denied having sex with the woman and downplayed the sexual nature of the messages.

However, the panel's decision describes his version of events as "unlikely and implausible."

The patient filed a complaint about Lutes in 2019.

She was "disturbed when she saw a news article where [Lutes] was commenting as chair of the Discipline Committee and had taken the licence of a Registered Massage Therapist who had kissed a patient," the decision says.

"According to [the woman, Lutes] was enforcing the rules, but he was breaking them himself."

The panel's decision says the patient had her first massage with Lutes in June 2016.

The patient testified at a hearing that Lutes complimented her athletic build and said he "enjoys having a pretty blond on the table." He also mentioned being on the college's discipline board.

After a second massage in July 2016, she testified he "slapped [her] butt." She described it as a "love tap," and said she was attracted to him.

They began talking on Facebook Messenger in August 2016. That discussion included a potential lunch date, though it didn't take place.

A record of their messages was entered as evidence.

After a massage that August, Lutes sent an image of a Lego figure slapping the rear of another Lego figure, the decision says. That evening, Lutes said he was at a bar and would go to his "lonely ole house" afterward. He asked "should I text you when I leave the bar ;)."

Panel found patient's testimony credible

The woman thought she had an appointment on Sept. 12, 2016, and they exchanged messages about being excited to see each other. However, the appointment was actually the next day.

Lutes offered a house call and to take her for a "rip" in a truck he was test driving that night. He picked her up around 10 p.m. after exchanging messages with sexual terms and innuendo.

The decision says that's when their version of events diverge.

She testified they went to his home and had sex, that she stayed overnight and then had oral sex in the morning.

Lutes testified he drove around with the patient, dropped her off, and then had sex with another woman.

The decision called his version of events "implausible." The panel called the patient's testimony credible, authentic and detailed.

"In addition, the numerous Messenger texts between [Lutes and the patient] of a sexual nature strongly suggests that there was mutual interest between [her] and the Respondent to engage in sexual activity," the decision states.

The decision says Lutes acknowledged under cross-examination that some messages were inappropriate and unprofessional. However, he said most were not sexual in nature. He claimed, the decision says, that an invitation to engage in "dirty sexting" was not sexual in nature.

College sought punishment imposed

The college argued Lutes committed sexual abuse of a patient in violation of the province's Massage Therapy Act. The act defines abuse as sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual relations, touching of a sexual nature, or behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature.

Last year, a separate decision found Lutes guilty of sexual abuse of a patient in the summer of 2016. That panel issued a fine and a two month suspension.

The college sought the punishment the panel ultimately imposed. It argued that since Lutes has previously been found guilty of sexual abuse and was a former discipline committee chair, he ought to have known better.

The college declined to comment on the panel's decision.