Anthony Medina, the Democratic state House candidate who told police he was touched inappropriately at a Woodburn massage parlor, is suing the establishment for $450,000.
Medina’s complaint, filed Thursday in Marion County Circuit Court, asks for $150,000 in economic damages, $300,000 in non-economic damages and a court order prohibiting the Woodburn Spa, its owner and the two other massage parlors she owns from operating.
The lawsuit stems from a police investigation into the spa that originated with Medina, the Democratic candidate for a competitive state House district, and grew to include Eric Swenson, the mayor of Woodburn and a former candidate for state Senate.
Medina, who has chronic back pain, receives regular massages from his West Salem chiropractor, according to police records provided through a public records request and his lawsuit. His chiropractor didn’t have any appointments available in early February, and he decided to go to the Woodburn Spa after driving by the building, off Highway 99 on the northeast side of Woodburn.
In his police interview, Medina described stripping to his boxers and covering up with a towel. The masseuse, who Medina later identified as massage parlor owner Fuxiu Zhen, pulled his boxers down and attempted to massage his rear end and later touched his genitals, he said. When he told her he didn’t want to be touched there, he said she briefly rubbed his feet and then told him the massage was over.
He told his wife about the incident, and, at her urging, called Woodburn Police. Medina participated in video interviews with officers and identified Zhen in a photo lineup.
A week later, Medina told Swenson what happened to him as the two had coffee. The men are both on the Woodburn School District Board and later became running mates in House and Senate seats.
Swenson called Medina after their meeting and told him the “same thing” happened to him, though Swenson later told police he engaged in “mutual groping.”
Both men went on to win their respective legislative primaries, though Swenson withdrew as nominee weeks after the primary. He has denied that the massage parlor incident had anything to do with his decision to step down, saying he just wanted to continue serving as mayor.
Candidates for mayor need to submit prospective petition election forms, receive approval to circulate them and collect at least 20 signatures from voters before Aug. 30. Swenson has not yet begun that process, City Recorder Heather Pierson told the Capital Chronicle on Thursday.
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson declined to prosecute the Woodburn Spa’s owner or masseuse, her spokeswoman confirmed last month.
Zhen, and the spa’s second masseuse, Xu Yingqiu, do not have licenses to practice massage in Oregon, according to Medina’s lawsuit and police records. Both women had California driver’s licenses, and Zhen is a licensed massage therapist in California.
Neither Woodburn Spa, Iris Massage in Portland nor Angels Touch Massage in Eugene are licensed by the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists. Business records filed with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office list Zhen as an owner or organizer of all three.
Medina’s lawsuit alleges that Zhen committed battery by groping him, engaged in “human trafficking, indentured servitude, prostitution and other criminal activities” in violation of state racketeering laws and that the spa engaged in negligence by hiring unlicensed massage therapists and not providing training about the illegality of touching clients.
The Woodburn Spa has deleted its website since the Oregon Capital Chronicle and other media outlets reported on its legal troubles, but the spa itself remains open. A woman who answered the phone at the spa Thursday afternoon asked what time a reporter wanted to come in, but quickly ended the call when told about the lawsuit.
They later texted “Yes we open but we are new business not old one. Thank you.” The number is still linked to a post on bodyrubpage.com advertising “New sweet cute girl” and “beautiful masseuses (that) bring you an unprecedented massage experience.” The texter denied being Fuxiu Zhen.
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Julia Shumway is deputy editor of Oregon Capital Chronicle and has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.