RADFORD — More details of the allegations against an alternative medicine therapist were outlined during a Tuesday court hearing, including that he approached his female assistant while naked and asked her to practice her massage technique on his groin.
Circuit Court Judge Joey Showalter declined to set a bail for Martin V. Riding, 67, saying he posed a danger to the community and would remain in jail as he awaits trial.
Riding, who for years operated the Renew For Life holistic medicine clinic, faces 73 charges. They include 32 felony and 32 misdemeanor counts tied to performing invasive procedures without a state license, seven felony counts of animate object sexual penetration, one felony count of taking indecent liberties with a minor, and one misdemeanor count of indecent exposure.
“This is a diabolical predatory scheme done under the guise of a healthcare provider,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak said.
Rehak described incidents such as the massage request to Riding’s assistant and episodes where Riding allegedly put his fingers in the vaginas and rectums of women to gauge if cancer was in remission.
At an earlier hearing in the case, Rehak said the investigation of Riding was prompted by his assistant’s complaint to police that he had made her “digitally penetrate” a woman without wearing gloves. The assistant described cameras set up in dressing rooms and pictures of naked women on Riding’s computer, according to search warrants.
Until his arrest in June, Riding ran his clinic at his home on Radford’s 8th Street. Riding is not a medical doctor, but called himself a family alternative therapist and offered services that included massage, breast exams and thermographic imaging, treatment with hot stones and tuning forks, and counseling.
In court Tuesday, defense attorney Chris Collins of Roanoke described Riding’s practice in religious terms and said Riding was motivated to help others by his own experience of overcoming prostate cancer through alternative treatments.
“He’s not a predator … He had a ministry going out at his house,” Collins said.
Collins said that he still is searching for alleged victims and that some of them have said they want to testify in Riding’s defense.
Collins said that his client may have been unaware of some licensing requirements but said that he had not tried to harm anyone.
Addressing some of the incidents Rehak described, Collins said that while it was “ill-advised” for Riding to ask his assistant for a massage, it had been an “entirely consensual” encounter.
Regarding the incident during which Riding allegedly asked the assistant to put her finger inside a woman’s body, the assistant only voiced her discomfort afterward, Collins said, adding that Riding had then apologized for telling her to do it.
Above all, Collins said, Riding’s clients had signed consent forms saying they knew he was not a medical doctor and that they agreed to his exams. Some of Riding’s clients had cancer, and “some of them were in sensitive areas of the body and he had to feel them,” Collins said.
Asked by the judge if there had been consent forms, Rehak said not in every instance, and that the forms did not cover what Riding actually did.
Riding closed his clinic in June after his initial arrest, which was tied to the licensing charges. Released on bail, he was arrested again Friday after a grand jury indicted him on the sexual penetration and other charges.
Riding is scheduled to be back in court on Nov. 4 to schedule proceedings on one batch of charges, and on Dec. 13 for the other. Collins and Rehak said it was still to be determined whether there would be one trial for all the charges.