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Masseur cleared of sex-assault charges

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A male massage therapist who worked at Flowers Physical Therapy in Springfield Gardens was acquitted last week of charges he sexually assaulted a female patient last year.

Leslie Hines of Brooklyn was acquitted in a non-jury trial before Queens Criminal Court Judge Pauline Mullings May 4, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

“My client is an innocent man who we believe was victimized by this complaining woman,” said Steven Gilden, Hines’ attorney.

The charges were brought against Hines by Andrea Payne, of Jamaica, a former employee of U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), who is suing the congressman for more than $7 million, alleging he unlawfully fired her and failed to compensate her for overtime work.

Payne said the judge was given no choice but to acquit Hines because her case was not properly prosecuted by the district attorney’s office.

Payne said the assistant district attorney assigned to her case was transferred halfway through and a newly admitted member of the bar who took over the case failed to obtain Payne’s medical records as evidence.

“She never followed through in filing my medical records,” Payne said. “The judge had nothing to review to find him guilty without any reasonable doubt.”

Payne said Hines told the judge he was treating her for a groin injury, but she said she never sustained such an injury, which she said her medical records would have proved.

Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Richard Brown, said the DA’s office could not comment because the case had been sealed.

Payne began seeking treatment at Flowers Physical Therapy after a car accident in February 2000 which caused injuries to her back, neck, shoulder and knee, she said.

She alleged that on April 20, 2000 she went to her 10th meeting with the massage therapist she knew as Jack and was sexually assaulted during the meeting. She told police the following day and Hines was arrested.

Payne said “Jack” was one of the three aliases Hines used, but Gilden said “Jack” was a nickname Hines used because the name Leslie had feminine connotations.

“My client has no criminal history,” Gilden said. “He is a law-abiding citizen.”

Payne has a civil suit pending against Hines as well as a $26 million suit against Flowers Physical Therapy, which did not returns calls seeking comment.

Hines, who Gilden said was not available for comment, lost his job as a result of the charges but has since found other employment, his attorney said.

“This woman has a history of civil law suits,” Hines said.

Payne said she has not sought physical therapy since the alleged assault.

“I’m trying to move on with my life,” she said. “But I feel totally uncomfortable going to any medical facility.”

Payne said Meeks has filed a counter suit against her.

Candance Sandy, the congressman’s press secretary, said the case Payne filed against Meeks “has no merit” and confirmed the congressman had brought a counter suit against her.

“Hopefully, it will be resolved quickly,” Sandy said. “As a former employee, we wish Andrea Payne well in all her future endeavors.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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