Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington salon owner convicted of sexual assault

Truong Vu, owner of Pink Nail Salon on East Third Street, was found guilty of sexually assaulting two of his customers.

In December 2008, two women reported to police two separate incidents that occurred within eight days of one another.

The victims did not know each other, but their accounts were strikingly similar: They began with a body massage and ended in Vu groping or fondling them. Both alleged assaults took place when the salon neared closing time, in a room designated for waxing, after Vu locked the doors. Both women were brunettes, in their twenties and short. One client was 5 feet tall, the other 5-foot-1-inch.

In January 2009, Vu was held on bail for $40,000.

“The defendant had a plan and a pattern,” prosecutor Rebecca Veidlinger said in her closing statement. “He thought he could get away with it again. He identified his victims, isolated them and then sexually assaulted them.”

Near the end of the three-day trial in the Monroe Circuit Court, Vu testified on his own behalf and denied that he had sexually assaulted his customers. Instead, he claimed that the customers consented to the massages and said one of the clients even requested a massage.

The jury returned and the defendant remained expressionless as he was found guilty on all four felony counts, including criminal deviate conduct, criminal confinement, sexual battery and criminal confinement. He will receive his sentencing April 2.

One of the women said she was constrained as Vu inserted one or two fingers into her vagina and touched her anus. The other customer said he spanked her bottom and rubbed her breasts as his hands were inside her bra.

A video recording of Vu’s questioning with Detective Rick Crussen and Lt. David Drake was played for the jury.

“I took note that he knew what the complaint was immediately,” Crussen said during the trial.

In court, as he watched himself on the video, Vu appeared nervous.

At some points he turned his head away from the screen and fidgeted around in his seat. His knees shook.

During the Dec. 31, 2008, taping, Crussen said he only told Vu that there had been a complaint.

However, in the video, he knew exactly what the complaint was.

He knew it had something to do with the “birthday girl” and a body massage.

One of the victims was celebrating her 21st birthday, and Vu said he gave her a discount and only charged her for a manicure though she received a pedicure, which was interrupted with a massage. Her toenails were never painted.

In the video, Crussen admitted to kissing one of the victims’ necks, but said since they were friends it wasn’t anything sexual.

“I can’t believe she complained,” Vu said. “Right now, I’m scared.”

Crussen in the video then asked about an incident reported by the second victim, who said her butt had been spanked and he had said “You like that?”

“Is this the kind of behavior young girls want when they come in your salon,” Crussen asked.

“I just tapped her,” Vu said. “We were talking.”

During the trial, Vu said he had lightly tapped her bottom to wake her up since he claimed she had fallen asleep during the full body massage.

In the tape, Crussen noted the similarities between the victims.

“The girls looked so much alike,” he said. “They could have been sisters ... You didn’t give a 55-year-old or 250-pound woman massages.”

A nervous chuckle escaped Vu’s mouth. “See where I’m going here?” the detective said.

Crussen asked if Vu’s massage practices were done on any other customers.

Vu said the night before the questioning, he had given one to a young, blonde girl with long hair.

“You choose girls you can overpower and can take back to the room,” Crussen said. “And you choose girls you are attracted to.”

Vu then said he didn’t understand Crussen’s claim.

In response, Crussen said, “When you were on the phone yesterday (with one of the victims during a recorded conversation) you spoke in good English.”

Earlier in the video he said, “I tried to be friendly and make my customers happy.”

He repeated this assertion in court on the stand.

Vu claimed that he carried one of the victims to the waxing room for that reason — to be as helpful to his clients as possible.

“I try to be nice to all my customers,” he said.

His attorney John-Paul Isom asked if Vu’s client was alright with him carrying her to the back room. He said yes, and when he was asked why he chose to carry her, Vu responded, “I didn’t want to see her walk on the floor.”

But on cross-examination, Veidlinger asked him why he would pick her up if her toenails had no color on them.

“She said her boyfriend did not treat her right,” he responded.

Veidlinger said the reality was that he carried her to a locked room without her consent, and then when she was on the massaging table, he wrapped his arm around her neck.

While holding her down, he touched her anus and penetrated her vagina with his fingers.

During the defendant’s concluding statements, the attorney remarked that there was not enough tangible evidence to convict Vu of the crimes.

“There is not enough physical evidence,” Isom said. “There were no signs of redness, abrasions, examinations or torn clothing ... Why didn’t the women push to get out, and once they did get out of the room, why wouldn’t they run out into the streets and scream bloody murder?”

During Viedlinger’s closing argument, she said there are no criteria for what sexual assault looks like.

“Just because she’s not kicking and screaming doesn’t mean it’s not sexual assault,” Viedlinger said. “Those are myths. Let’s accept that she was showing she did not consent.”

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