A North Vancouver massage therapist who sexually assaulted one of his patients while telling her his touching was therapeutic has been sent to jail for nine months by a provincial court judge.
Judge Doug Moss of the North Vancouver provincial court handed the sentence to David Fierro, 43, telling him his conduct was "reprehensible" and "not to be tolerated."
"There's a clear power imbalance between yourself and your patients," Moss told Fierro. "This type of offence carries with it a high level of moral culpability."
Fierro's family members gasped and sobbed as sheriffs put handcuffs on him.
Following a trial earlier this summer, Fierro was found guilty of sexually assaulting the patient during three different treatments at Steve Nash Fitness World in North Vancouver.
The victim, whose name is protected under a court-ordered publication ban, testified Fierro sexually touched her while telling her he was providing treatment for a deviated tailbone. But a massage therapist expert who testified at the trial said the way Fierro touched the woman was outside the bounds of any accepted massage procedure. The victim said Fierro also had inappropriate sexual conversations during the treatment sessions and left her only partially covered by a sheet.
Fierro denied the allegations and said the victim fabricated the story, but Moss ruled the victim was more credible.
Prosecutor Joanne Verrier told Moss on Wednesday Fierro should receive a jail sentence of up to two years, saying he has a pattern of sexual behaviour towards female patients. In 2006, Fierro was disciplined and entered into an agreement with the College of Massage Therapists to get counselling on appropriate boundaries with patients with after two women complained about him.
In a victim impact statement, Fierro's victim said his actions have left a "deep mental, emotional and financial scar on my life."
"I feel he was very aware of his position of power" and used it to his advantage, the woman wrote.
The woman said she no longer receives any kind of health care treatment from men because she doesn't trust them and no longer works out at North Vancouver Fitness World even though she has a longstanding membership there.
Verrier added Fierro has never expressed any remorse about what he did.
Fierro's defence lawyer Noah Neaman asked the judge to consider not sending Fierro to jail, saying Fierro's wife and three children are dependent on him.
He urged the judge to consider a suspended sentence and lengthy probation term instead.
The lawyer said Fierro has already suffered shame and embarrassment, has lost his livelihood and will probably lose his house in North Vancouver.
He said Fierro doesn't have a criminal record. He added friends and former clients describe him as a "devoted family man" as well as a "very spiritual and generous person."
But Moss rejected that, saying a jail sentence was needed to denounce Fierro's conduct.
In addition to the jail sentence, Moss ordered Fierro to serve two years on probation and banned him from providing health care services or massage to any female patient.
Fierro resigned as a registered massage therapist the week before he was sentenced, just before the college was to hold a special disciplinary hearing into his conduct.