Garner Ted On Trial

    A few months ago, the Painful Truth was allowed to view a copy of the videotape taken by the masseuse who accused Garner Ted Armstrong of sexual assault, following an event that occurred on July 4, 1995.  After reviewing the tape twice, the Painful Truth convened a hearing to determine the guilt or innocence of Ted Armstrong.  The proceedings of that hearing follow.



    Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Hear ye!  The Inferior Kourt for the Kounty of Kangaroo is now in session, the honorable John B presiding. 

    The only case on today's docket is People's Opinion vs Garner Ted Armstrong.  Mr. Armstrong is charged with four counts: 

    Count 1: Gross hypocrisy of a religious leader, aka a "man of God" 

    Count 2: Grossly inappropriate conduct for a married man. 

    Count 3: Aggressive attempted seduction of a woman not his wife. 

    Count 4: Sexual assault/attempted rape 

    This Kourt will not hear any witnesses or oral arguments.  The evidence consists solely of a videotape recorded on the night in question.  A verdict will be rendered at the end of this hearing.  A description of the events set forth by the videotape follows. 


    The Night In Question

    The videotape runs about 44 minutes.  The camera is in a fixed position and never moves, which will be problematic when the action moves partially out of view.  The setting is what appears to be a treatment room similar to that of a chiropractor.  In the left foreground is what looks like a sink, only half of which is visible.  In the center background is the treatment table, a white rack of wood or metal with three dark cushions to support the body; the cushions might be leather or some sort of plastic foam.  On the wall above the table is a mirror perhaps 24" x 30" in size.   

    Against the wall at the head of the table is a shelf containing tissues and what looks like a bottle of oil.  To the left of the shelf is a towel rack.  Other objects decorate the two visible walls, some of them indistinct (the picture is somewhat grainy, black and white, almost like the FLIR picture from a police helicopter); one object looks like a lamp, two others like decorative wreaths. 

    The picture first appears at 7 seconds into the video.  The room is empty, but voices can be heard offstage.  The man's voice is strikingly familiar, though his words are not distinct.  He is talking quite rapidly, the woman answering in monosyllables. 

    From this point forward, the narrative will describe events based on the time they occur on the tape. 


    00:00:26 The woman enters the room.  She is wearing a white smock and pants (it might not be white, but this picture is so stark that any light color appears white and any dark color looks black; everything in between is a shade of grey).  She has white (blond?) hair and is smoking a cigarette.  She spreads a sheet over the treatment table. 

    00:00:40  The man enters the room.  He is so close to the camera that his head is cut off, but everything else is visible.  Did I say "everything"?  He is bare-ass naked.  As he advances into the room, his head appears; he has white hair, and some sort of tattoo on his right upper arm.  He approaches the table as if to lie down. 

    00:00:44  He turns from the table to the woman, extends his arms, and hugs her.  She accepts the hug, placing her left hand on the small of his back just above his derrière.  The hug extends for 8 or 9 seconds, during which time she rests her chin on his shoulder and puts one or both hands on his back three different times.  She appears to be smiling.  

    00:00:59  The man, now clearly identifiable as Garner Ted Armstrong, climbs onto the table and takes a face-down position.  During this maneuver, his genitalia are briefly but clearly visible.  The woman moves to the foot of the table and positions him for the massage, spreading his legs and adjusting the sheet.  They are talking all the time, but none of it is clearly audible -- the camera is sitting next to some kind of clock, which ticks every second, and somewhere a radio is playing strange music (this is true throughout the tape). 

    00:01:34  The woman removes a section of the table between his legs and sets it aside.  She takes a bottle of oil, squeezes some onto her hand, and begins massaging his legs and thighs. 

    00:02:10  The woman is now working inside his butt cheeks, right down where the family package resides, her fingers stroking upward and outward.  He arches his butt as if becoming aroused.  She continues to work on his thighs with strong strokes, working the muscles.  Several times her hands seem to approach his genitals, but she is several feet from the camera, everything looks white, and it's hard to tell just how close she comes.  They continue to converse pleasantly as the massage continues.  The woman is talking freely and does not appear to be afraid. 

    00:04:21  Now the woman's hands are stroking firmly in a "wax on/wax off" motion from the inside of his thighs (under the butt cheeks) outward.  She is standing in the cutout of the table between his legs.  Ted's butt arches with almost every stroke. 

    00:06:57  Ted reaches back to his butt and asks her to do something in a certain spot.  She begins to stroke upward from about the base of his scrotum. 

    00:07:30  Now her hands disappear underneath him and she looks to be rubbing his testicles, though it's impossible to be certain.  Certainly her hands are very close to them. 

    00:08:19  Ted reaches back again, takes her left wrist, and positions it where he wants her to work. Her hands are now deep under him, and as he removes his hand she continues to work there.  As she continues to work for several minutes, Ted appears to become increasingly aroused. 

    00:11:29  The woman, who is standing on a short step extending from the bottom of the table, loses her balance and slumps forward over him, catching the table with her hands.  Ted exclaims something and reaches back with his left hand, squeezing her arm and patting it.  Ted lifts himself and turns over, fully exposing his genitalia; the woman steps back.  Now he positions himself on his back and she resumes work, massaging his thighs.  She does not appear to be disconcerted that his maleness is right in front of her, less than two feet from her face.  They chat pleasantly, both of them laughing.  She makes some comment about "water in my ears yet, what did you say?"  His words continue to be indistinct. 

    00:12:29 Ted takes her hands and places them near his genitals.  She begins working there, using the same sweeping strokes she used previously when he was face down.  Several times he takes her hands and tries to control them, but she continues to work.  At one point he pulls her hands toward his face, and she stops working until he releases them, then resumes massaging.  As she massages his chest, he massages her upper arms, and at times appears to be squeezing her breasts (but this is indistinct). 

    00:14:43  Ted moans and reaches up to lift her smock.  For a bare instant her left breast is exposed, and he touches it, then lies back down.  So far she has not overtly resisted anything he has done.  He takes her hands and guides them around his genitalia.  Their hands move forward and back several times -- it is unclear whether she is actually touching him there, but she appears to be.  After he lies back, she continues to work around his thighs.  Their conversation remains congenial.  Ted sighs from time to time. 

    00:16:14  Ted takes the woman's arms and pulls her forward over his body.  He lifts his head and kisses her.  Her left foot leaves the floor and is visible in the air above his legs in a classic pose of a woman being kissed.  She says something inaudible, then he kisses her again.  As she resumes work he is talking to her, and she seems uncomfortable for the first time. 

    00:17:24  Now the woman is working in a more upright position.  Ted leans forward and reaches for her breasts.  Her arms are no longer in the way and he is clearly massaging her breasts.  She makes no effort to stop him or move away from his hands, but continues to massage his thighs.  Thirty seconds later, Ted lifts her smock and continues playing with her breasts, his hands under the smock.  She does not move away immediately, but allows this for 10 or 12 seconds. 

    00:18:08  Ted can now be seen playing with his tool while she massages his hips.  At 18:16 he takes her hands and places them on it, murmuring to her.  She says "No" and shakes her head repeatedly.  She clearly says "can not do this", but the rest of her words are unclear.  He relents, and she continues to work.  She now appears uncomfortable, but not visibly frightened. 

    00:19:12  She slumps over him again, catching herself by grabbing the table.  Ted pats her on the shoulder and sits up.  He now sits with his legs spread apart, the woman standing between them, and puts his arms around her.  He hugs her for several seconds, then begins rubbing her left breast again.  Her body is stiff and she doesn't reciprocate in any way, but neither does she try to escape. 

    00:19:39  Ted slides his hand under her smock again and goes for the naked breast.  He plays with it for a moment. 

    00:19:48 Ted takes her breast in his mouth, sucking it and moaning.  Her left hand goes to his shoulder and she grips him, as if to prevent him from coming any closer; she leans backward, and finally appears to push at him.  He puts his mouth on the other breast and reaches around to grip her bottom with his right arm. 

    00:20:23  The woman is now very stiff and uncomfortable.  Ted puts both arms around the small of her back and pulls her to him, his face buried in her chest (but not visible to the camera).  The woman is literally bending backward, both hands on the edges of the table (she is standing in a cutout between the two wings at the foot of the table).  Ted moves back to her left breast and sucks it again, putting his face fully in view again.  The woman looks over her shoulder once, as if wanting to escape.  He lifts her smock to expose both breasts and pulls her against him briefly.  He says something and she shakes her head firmly.  "No," she says clearly, three times.  He reaches for her crotch, and she says "Please don't [inaudible]!"   

    00:20:45  Ted lies back down and begins stroking his tool.  She resumes the massage.  A moment later he tries to put her hands on his privates again, but she speaks sharply and he says, with a sigh, "Okay". 

    00:22:16  Ted turns face down again, and the massage continues.  The woman seems more comfortable now, massaging inside his butt cheeks as before.  He continues to talk in a low voice, but she says nothing.  The affability has diminished. 

    00:24:50  Ted reaches under himself and begins, apparently, to stroke himself, talking all the while.  She continues to work near his scrotum.  She speaks, but very quietly as they resume conversation. 

    00:27:30  The woman seems to be working in one spot beneath his groin, as if milking something.  Ted reaches back and tries to guide her hand again. 

    00:28:32 The woman loses her balance again and slumps forward.  Ted lifts himself onto his left elbow and, with his right hand, reaches for her left breast again, squeezing it several times.  She stands passively while he does so. 

    00:28:28  Ted gets off the table and stands up.  The woman steps back.  He turns and lifts her smock, leaning against her.  She is only half visible now, having backed partially out of the camera's view.  (The scene that follows appears to be the same as the segment featured on Geraldo Rivera's program.)  Ted's profile and tattoos are clearly visible.  He hugs the woman and fondles her; she stands with head down, her left hand on his shoulder in a defensive posture.  He dips his head toward her right breast, but his face is obscured.  His left hand is visible in the vicinity of her midsection, moving up and down, but exactly what he is doing is not clear.  As he fondles her, she pushes weakly with her left hand, and says "No".  The fabric of her pants flutters rapidly -- it appears he is massaging her groin. 

    00:29:47  The woman is almost completely out of view now.  Ted has hold of her hands and guides them toward his crotch.  She says "No" several times, rather breathlessly.  He maintains hold of her wrists, and it appears that his penis may be in her hands.  She strokes it as long as he has hold of her wrists, then he releases her wrists and she continues to stroke for two or three more seconds.  Then she drops it and says something indistinct that sounds like "it's not [garbled]".  

    Ted turns as if to lie down again, then returns to the woman and leans toward her, kissing her.  He turns fully toward the camera and grabs his tool, massaging it for several seconds.  She says something that sounds like "leave the room", and he turns.  She walks past the camera and puts distance between them, then stops and they talk for a moment, none of it distinct.  He seems to be questioning her, and his expression suggests that he may now realize he has overstepped a boundary.  She stands rubbing her hands, as if uncertain whether to return to the massage.  Ted lies down on his back again, saying something that seems designed to assure her that he will behave.  She returns to the table. 

    00:31:00  She resumes the massage, working in his groin area and repeatedly stroking upward from underneath his testicles, then stroking his entire body from the chest on down.  At this point the massage looks less like a massage than a continuous caress.  

    00:35:10  Ted seizes her breasts again, rubbing her nipples with his fingers.  She continues to work, making no visible effort to stop him. 

    00:36:00  He again places her hands on his genitals, guiding them up and down.  She does not resist.  When he releases her hands she resumes working.

    00:36:38  Ted lifts his right leg and begins rubbing her left buttock with his heel.  A foot-long vertical tattoo is clearly visible on his calf.  He reaches for her breasts again.  She is now standing with her crotch right against his genital area; it is difficult to tell if the two are in contact, but they appear to be.   

    Over the next couple of minutes, Ted alternately plays with her breasts and himself, several times placing her hands on his genitalia.  Their conversation is muted, so any verbal objection she might be making is lost, but she does not terminate the session. 

    00:39:55  Ted climbs off the table and turns to face her.  He says something to her and she shakes her head firmly, raising both hands in objection. He presses his point, and she says "No" several more times.  He chuckles and turns toward the camera.  She walks past him, offstage to left, and he follows.  She says "You're the client, I'm [inaudible]".  He asks her for a towel.  They both disappear from view, their voices indistinct.  The room is now empty, but the camera is still running.  Ted is heard to sigh once or twice. 

    00:42:26  Ted appears again, wearing pants and a striped sweater.  He is singing something that sounds like "anybody else but me".  The radio is playing the same song.  Ted looks around for a moment, then walks out, still singing.  The sound of a door closing is heard.  No one else enters the room. 

    00:44:07  The tape ends.


    The Kourt's Verdict

    After reviewing the videotape twice, the Kourt has arrived at its decision.  Mr. Armstrong, being tried posthumously, receives the following verdicts: 

    On Count 1: Gross hypocrisy of a religious leader, aka a "man of God": GUILTY AS CHARGED 

    On Count 2: Grossly inappropriate conduct for a married man: GUILTY AS CHARGED 

    On Count 3: Aggressive attempted seduction of a woman not his wife: GUILTY AS CHARGED 

    On Count 4: Sexual assault/attempted rape: NOT GUILTY 

    Explanation of Count 4

    First, it is undeniable that Mr. Armstrong attempted to have sexual contact with the woman.  He hugged her before the massage ever began, and throughout the 44 minutes he continuously touched her in an inappropriate manner, even kissing her and sucking her bare breasts. 

    Second, it is quite clear that the woman did not want to have sexual contact with Mr. Armstrong, as evidenced by her body language when things got heated, and her repeated declarations of "No!" on numerous occasions. 

    Third, at one point, Mr. Armstrong appears to be rubbing her genitals in an effort to arouse her, though the poor quality of the image makes this point inconclusive.  This action, in concert with the defendant's overt handling of her breasts, is the only action that might be construed as sexual assault. no time did the defendant use physical force (other than his aggressive personality); at no time did the defendant become violent; at no time did the defendant become threatening; at no time, as far as can be concluded from the poor quality audio, did the defendant become verbally abusive.  At no time did the defendant attempt to restrain the woman.  At worst, the defendant was guilty of aggressive (albeit clumsy) attempt at seduction. 

    Furthermore, the woman had 44 minutes to leave the room.  Only once did she appear to even threaten to terminate the session, but when he backed down she continued the massage.  While it is clear that she did not want to engage in sex, it is less clear that she found his other attentions offensive, although at moments she did appear uncomfortable.  And yet, aside from his rubbing her genitals, she made no obvious effort to stop him from touching her in an inappropriate way, nor did she terminate the session. 

    This Kourt does not hold the view that a woman is "asking for it" if she remains passive in the face of an unwanted sexual advance, but if sexual assault charges are to be brought, the alleged victim's conduct must be examined fairly.  In this encounter, the woman did aggressively say "NO!" when she felt the situation was getting out of hand, but her conduct leading up to that moment (i.e., her failure to aggressively stop the inappropriate touching, kissing, and sucking) could be easily (and perhaps reasonably) construed by the defendant as implicit acceptance.  In other words, as long as she let him take liberties, he felt free to extend those liberties even further.   

    And when she finally said stop, he stopped. 

    It is therefore the opinion of this Kourt that, while the defendant's actions, in view of the fact that he was a married man, a father and grandfather, and a well-known religious leader, were utterly and completely reprehensible, these actions did not rise to the level of a crime. 

    Kourt is adjourned.



Garner Ted Armstrong Sexual Assault

Dallas Observer article

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