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Four more women accuse acupuncturist of sex assault

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the week since his arrest, four more women have come forward with allegations that an Albuquerque acupuncturist sexually assaulted them during treatment, according to a police detective.

Megumi Hirayama

The new accusations were shared Thursday as prosecutors unsuccessfully asked a state District Court judge to detain Megumi Hirayama, the 69-year-old owner of Zen Japanese Acupuncture who is facing a criminal sexual penetration charge. Although he will be released from jail, pro-tem judge Richard Brown ruled that Hirayama is prohibited from practicing Oriental medicine or going within five blocks of his office as he awaits trial.

Testifying at the hearing, APD Detective Daniel Spinks said investigations into the new allegations are in the preliminary stages, but the earliest reported abuse had taken place about 8 to 10 years ago.

He said the conduct described by two of the women may constitute criminal sexual penetration, while the other two women reported behavior that could constitute criminal sexual contact. Charges have not been filed in those cases.

“When victims realize that there are potentially other people who have been harmed by somebody, they then feel more comfortable coming forward themselves and make a disclosure months, years after the alleged incident,” Spinks said.

At this point, Hirayama is facing charges involving only one woman who told police she went to Hirayama for help with foot pain. He was professional during her first two sessions, but at an appointment in August, she told him about her son’s death and he offered to provide “grief therapy.” Police say he fondled her and told her “this is for grief” before digitally penetrating her.

Hirayama’s attorney, Molly Schmidt-Nowara, emphasized that the new allegations had come out only after local media publicized her client’s arrest in the initial case Jan. 10. And she asked the judge to give little weight to the new accusations because Spinks had offered only the “sketchiest details.”

But Judge Brown said the allegations were reliable enough to take into consideration as he determined whether Hirayama should be detained. Brown noted that two of the accusers described conduct that rose only to the level of criminal sexual contact and said that people who “come forward with an ax to grind” will “usually go to extremes.”

“It seems unlikely to me that witnesses would come forward for their own ulterior motives and downplay the seriousness of the case,” he said.

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