Barbara Lawlor, Boulder County. Nederland resident Greg Ching was found guilty of two counts of Class 4 felony Sexual Assault and two counts of misdemeanor Unlawful Sexual Contact last Thursday afternoon, June 18. Sentencing will take place at 10:30 a.m. August 21 in Boulder District Court.
Felony Sexual Assault could mean lifetime probation with a minimum of 10-20 years in prison or 20 years to life if the judge hands down consecutive sentences.
The Misdemeanor Class I sentences each carry a potential of two years in the county jail and up to a $5000 fine.
Defense attorney Dave Harrison said he fought to get separate trials but the prosecution preferred to lump together the four charges in one trial.
Boulder 20th Judicial District Court Judge Patrick Miller presided over the trial.
Chief Trial District Attorney Catrina Weigel and Deputy District Attorney Erica Baasten along with Investigator Maggie Green made up the prosecution team. The trial began a week ago Monday, June 15.
On Wednesday, four victims presented graphic accounts of how Ching had made sexual contact with them while giving them Watsu water massages. In two of the cases the women said he forced them to have sex. One of them said she couldn’t fight back because she was afraid she would drown and another woman said she was intimidated and confused by Ching’s actions.
Watsu is aquatic massage therapy and Ching’s facility is a warm water indoor pool in a clean and peaceful environment. Some of his clients showed up for the trial and were shocked and saddened by the verdict.
On Friday, Watsu practitioner and instructor Peggy Schoedinger took the stand saying she teaches Watsu in countries all over the world and in rehabilitation hospitals. She lauded the benefits of water massage for the body, saying that the water does most of the support of the body, but the practitioner moves the body in slow, flowing rhythmical motions, having the client relax as they are rolled and stretched in the water.
Having the patient as comfortable as possible is the therapists goal. “There is profound relaxation that decreases pain, improves mobility and helps one function in life,” said Schoedinger.
With 100 Watsu instructors internationally, they are in demand and Ching often hosted clinics for instructors, in which he used area residents as models for the therapy instructors to practice on. These sessions are usually attended by a group of students.
The four victims engaged in one-on-one sessions with no other people present at the time of their assaults. Schoedinger said Ching’s pool is spectacular, with the best water quality in the world and is excellently maintained. There are only five Watsu pools in the area and she taught seven five-day classes in 2014. She and Ching co-taught the sessions and he always followed protocol explaining how the physical contact is used, where the hands are going to be before the session. She says the patient is always asked if there was anything that would make them uncomfortable.
The first woman to come forward said she spent the night in a guest room at the facility when Ching came in and sexually assaulted her even after she had asked him to stop. The other woman said he had assaulted her in the water.
During Harrison’s final statement, he told the jury to look at each accusation separately. He explained the difference between sexual assault and sexual contact.
He also reminded the jury that there had been no forensic serology results to support sexual intercourse, and concluded that there was reasonable doubt due to lack of evidence.
Prosecutor Catrina Weigel asked the jury, “What are the chances of four women who don’t know each other, getting on the stand and telling vile and disgusting things. Only because they are telling the truth? When one woman came forth, three others said he had done the same thing to them. There is no reason to do that if it wasn’t true.”
Within two and a half hours, the jury came back with a guilty-on-all-counts verdict.