A Madison woman who accused an Athens massage therapist of intentionally stroking her genitals during a routine massage last year is suing the therapist in civil court, court records show.

The therapist, meanwhile, is countersuing the woman for malicious prosecution and defamation of character for trying to "defame" him and "destroy his business," according to his complaint.

Rachell Pyle, filed her lawsuit against Paul Dobbs Sr. last year after an Athens municipal judge found Dobbs not guilty of harassing Pyle during a June 30, 2018, massage at Essential Kneads Therapeutic Massage. The lawsuit accuses Dobbs of negligence, among other charges.

During the March 15, 2018, municipal court trial, Pyle had testified that in addition to inappropriately touching her, Dobbs also offered to provide her with sexual favors in the future, free of charge, while her husband, Army Col. Jason Pyle, was in Korea. Dobbs denied Pyle's claims.

Civil cases

Pyle, who is a stay-at-home mother and the wife of an active-duty Army colonel serving in Korea, said in her civil complaint she was sexually abused as a child. She said she regularly visited Dobbs, who owns Essential Kneads Therapeutic Massage, for relief of muscle tension and soreness arising from everyday stress and activity.

Although she had seen him several times, she claims Dobbs assaulted her on June 30. That assault, she said, caused her extreme and ongoing physical, mental and emotional anguish arising from the actions of Dobbs and the negligence in oversight and supervision by EKTM.

She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from both Dobbs and his business, plus court costs, interest and "any and all relief that the court deems justified and proper." She is represented by attorney Eric Artrip of Mastando & Artrip of Huntsville.

Dobbs said in his countersuit he has spent 46 years in the construction business and as a massage therapist. According to the document, he has "maintained a good reputation in regard to his personal life and the ownership of and operation of both businesses."

He said her "false statements" and "false allegations," including those told to the media, were done to "defame him and destroy his reputation, personal and business-wise," according to his complaint. He further claims he has lost "his business operations and sources of income from his construction business and Essential Kneads Therapeutic Massage."

He is seeking punitive and compensatory damages and "whatever else a jury and the court sees just and fit to award." He is represented by attorney Dan Totten of Athens.

Law change?

Meanwhile, Pyle is working with state Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, to try to change state law on sexual assault so a victim does not have to be inappropriately touched twice to bring the charge. She said she has been asked to speak to state legislators on the matter sometime this year.

Under Alabama law, an adult who inappropriately touches another adult cannot be charged with sexual assault unless the victim tries to "overcome her attacker with earnest." Currently, in some cases the only recourse for a victim is to seek a misdemeanor harassment charge.

City trial

During the brief trial in Athens Municipal Court last March, Judge Donald Mansell heard testimony from Pyle, Dobbs and five of his character witnesses.

When Chesnut questioned Dobbs during the trial about which line he crossed, Dobbs gave the following explanation:

“She turned quicker than I was ready for and I kind of got a flash,” Dobbs said. “The apology was primarily for crossing the line in that I should have terminated the massage when I had been flashed. I should have ended the massage and asked her to leave.”

Pyle denied during the trial she purposely showed her naked body to Dobbs during the massage.

City Prosecutor Patrick Chesnut did not question Pyle's husband, Jason, to whom Dobbs apologized by telephone text message about "crossing the line." He also did not enter into evidence the contents of the text message. The text message was supplied to The News Courier.

In the July 3 text, Jason Pyle confronted Dobbs about the incident. Dobbs responded to Pyle's text the next day, July 4. In his reply, Dobbs wrote, “I'm begging for forgiveness. I had a moment of insanity for which I am very much ashamed.”

He went on to write that he “learned a valuable lesson” and that “there will never be a crossing of that line again. I've always valued the friendship we have and now, of all times, I made a mistake for which I'm grieving very much over.”

In closing the text message, Dobbs asked Pyle to forgive his stupidity and to pray for him.

During a Dec. 19, 2017, telephone conversation, Dobbs confirmed to The News Courier he had written the July 4 text.

As for why his text contained apologetic language, a reference to momentary insanity and the fact he was ashamed, Dobbs said, “I was under a lot of stress, sometimes your wording does not come out very well.”

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