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Masseuse cleared over assault claims

A jury has cleared a Canberra masseur of raping a young woman as she lay on his massage table, more than a year after he was acquitted of offences against six other women.

Estuardo Ioberto Pazmino, 48, was operating a small massage clinic inside a gym in May 2009, when he gave a massage to a 19-year-old fitness worker.

The Crown had alleged that during the therapeutic massage, he locked the door, took off the woman's underpants, began touching her inappropriately, and then raped her.

Mr Pazmino had denied the allegations, saying the sex was consensual, and had been initiated by the woman, who he said had grabbed his hand and said "play with me".

The jury took just one-and-a-half hours to clear Mr Pazmino on all seven charges against the woman.

Their verdict comes more than a year after Mr Pazmino was found not guilty of indecent acts on half a dozen other women between 2006 and 2009.

He was cleared of those separate offences - which included inappropriately touching women, making lewd comments, and pulling down a towel to expose one woman's breasts - by a jury in early June last year.

The masseur had faced a five day rape trial in the ACT Supreme Court this week.

It is the second time he has stood trial for the allegations against the 19-year-old, with a jury unable to reach a verdict in his first trial in October last year.

The central issue in the trial had been consent.

The woman claimed she froze as he began touching her, and was unable to call out, or move away.

She said she had felt a "disconnect" between what her mind was telling her to do, and what she could do.

The complainant said she told him twice to concentrate on her upper back when he began touching her inappropriately.

The Crown alleged the masseur had been reckless about whether she was consenting to the sex.

But Mr Pazmino claimed that she had become aroused during the massage, and had instigated the sex.

He admitted he had failed in his professional obligations as a masseur and in his duties as a husband, but said what happened was not a crime.

James Lawton, Mr Pazmino's barrister, said the physics and mechanics of the woman's story had not made sense.

He also pointed out inconsistencies in different versions of the story she gave to medical officers and police.

Mr Lawton questioned the woman's evidence that she had worried others might hear the sound of her buttocks being slapped, suggesting a rape victim would want someone to hear so others could come to their aid.

The Crown - represented by Mark Fernandez - described Mr Pazmino's claims that the woman had come onto him as "completely unbelievable, self-serving nonsense".

He asked the jury why a woman, who was not even half his age and barely knew him, would try to have sex with Mr Pazmino in a professional setting in her own workplace.

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