RADFORD — Alternative medicine practitioner Martin V. Riding pleaded guilty Friday to 16 misdemeanor charges in an agreement that dismissed another 59 felony and misdemeanor counts.
Riding, 67, who operated the Renew For Life holistic health clinic from his Radford home, was arrested last year on dozens of accusations that included sex crimes against clients and subjecting his patients to invasive procedures for which he did not have a proper license.
In a plea agreement approved Friday in the city’s Circuit Court, Riding admitted guilt to 16 counts of practicing a profession without a proper license. Judge Joey Showalter dismissed the remaining charges and sentenced Riding to serve 12 months in jail and pay total fines of $3,200.
The plea agreement also mandated that Riding have no contact with victims of the charges he pleaded guilty to and barred him from health care work and health-related business ventures, Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak said.
At an earlier hearing in the case, Rehak said that some of the allegations involved Riding putting fingers inside female clients’ private areas to gauge if cancer was in remission.
Defense attorney Paul Beers of Roanoke noted after the hearing that Riding has always maintained his innocence to any of the charges involving invasive procedures or sex-related acts and said Friday’s agreement vindicated his client.
“We are very happy with the outcome,” Beers said, adding that he appreciated Rehak and Radford police investigators reaching what Beers called “the only correct conclusion, which is that there is insufficient evidence” to support the charges that were dismissed.
Beers said that Riding continues to think that he should never have been charged at all but accepted that he had been confused about what licenses he needed for his health practice.
Riding, who is not a medical doctor, 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.
After Friday’s hearing, Rehak said that there were several factors that would have made the case difficult to take to a jury, including that about a third of the 35 alleged victims seemed to support Riding.
Others were reluctant to testify, Rehak said. “There was a lot of shame and embarrassment,” Rehak said, noting that some of Riding’s clients were cancer patients who had run out of options with traditional medical care. Others had been referred through connections at churches Riding had attended, Rehak said.
The plea agreement was reached after consulting with victims and allowed them to maintain their privacy by not having to testify, Rehak said.
Riding was scheduled for two jury trials that would have begun next week. Those were canceled by Friday’s agreement.
With the time served since his arrest in September and with credit for good behavior behind bars, Riding is likely to be released next month, Beers and Rehak said.