The Florida Department of Health took emergency action late Monday against the massage therapy license of Kevin Joseph Holmes, who runes the Muscle Eze massage business on 2620 W. Manatee Ave. in Bradenton.
The state's action comes a month after police arrested Holmes on a battery charge involving an off-duty female law enforcement officer and days after Eight On Your side started asking questions about the case.
The female victim complained that Holmes had fondled her breasts when she visited him for an appointment March 16th to relieve muscle soreness in her legs.
According to Bradenton police records Kevin Holmes, age 60, told investigators the victim "was an attractive girl, plain and simple." Investigators say Holmes told them what he did to her was "absolutely inappropriate."
The victim thought so, too. Records indicate the incident on Holmes’ massage table left her “in a panic and frozen with fear.”
8 On Your Side discovered that despite Holmes arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge his massage license remained in good standing with the Florida Department of Health until the emergency restrictions took effect late Monday.
Those restrictions quickly followed a phone call that Pinellas Republican Senator Jack Latvala made to Florida's Surgeon General moments after learning about Holmes arrest from 8 On Your Side.
The state's website indicates Holmes license is no under emergency restrictions. It doesn't specify what that means. There’s no indication there are any emergency restrictions on the facility license for Muscle Eze, which is also owned by Holmes.
Holmes faces a court hearing for his battery charge April 22, but that hasn't stopped him from working at Muscle Eze on two consecutive Fridays when 8 On Your Side paid a visit to the business located at 2620 W. Manatee Ave in Bradenton to ask him some questions.
On both occasions Holmes refused to discuss the matter.
“I have no comment,” Holmes said while sitting at the reception desk of Muscle Eze. His arrest report indicates Holmes had plenty to say to investigators as well as the victim after the incident.
According to police records the victim confronted Holmes three days after the incident in a recorded phone call. The report says “the defendant did not deny the incident and apologized numerous times, advising that it will never happen again.”
Police records also indicate that Holmes told investigators he had “clearly crossed the line” and the victim “was an attractive girl, plain and simple.”
Other licenses massage therapists in the Bradenton area say they are shocked that Holmes can continue to operate as a licensed professional after his arrest.
“It’s just disrespectful to the whole field,” said Kathleen Gallen who operates another massage therapy business about a block west of Muscle Eze.
“Yes, I’m shocked,” said Gallen. “I didn’t think he could still be practicing after this happened.”
The victim of Holmes alleged transgression isn't very happy either. She asked 8 On Your Side to not name her due to the nature of what happened, but said there was no mistaking that what Holmes did to her was deliberate and upsetting.
A six month news investigation by 8 On Your Side has uncovered a number of people--including eight registered sex offenders--who managed to keep their licenses. Five of those registered sex offenders still have clear and active state massage licenses.
That list of therapists currently approved by the state includes a registered sex offender on probation in Clearwater who the courts say can’t be alone with his own daughter. But the Department of Health says he can be alone with anyone else’s daughter on a massage table, despite his conviction for child pornography.
Another licensed massage therapist in Pinellas County Ronald Bruinius is now in jail facing two charges of sexual battery involving two different women and according to his own lawyer may be under investigation for as many as four more incidents.
The Florida Department of Health did eventually suspend Bruinius’ license, but not until a month after his initial arrest and a subsequent charge alleging he committed a second sex crime on the job.
In response to our 8 On Your side news investigation of lax regulation, Senator Latvala filed a legislative proposal that would prohibit registered sex offenders and people who commit certain other offenses from holding state massage therapy licenses.
After learning about the arrest of massage therapist Kevin Holmes, Latvala said he is more determined than ever to get that bill passed into law before the Florida Legislature adjourns in May.
“I’m going to keep pressing forward with it,” Latvala said.
He had more immediate luck with his call to the Surgeon General Monday.
“The Surgeon General has authorized me to tell you that the suspension order in Mr. Holmes case is being signed today,” Latvala said.