Judge tosses charges against Everett-area acupuncturist

EVERETT — A woman’s hypnotherapy sessions have led a Snohomish County judge to throw out charges against an Everett-area acupuncturist accused of sexually abusing her.

The defense attorneys for Kuo Ching Yee filed a motion to exclude the woman’s testimony at trial after learning she’d seen a hypnotist a few weeks before she first reported that Yee had fondled and kissed her.

Seattle defense attorneys Todd Maybrown and David Allen alleged that the woman’s “supposed memories” were the product of sessions with a hypnotherapist who purports to be able to help clients remember their past lives. The hypnotherapist is not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist and began practicing after a 10-week course, according to court documents.

Superior Court Judge Anita Farris ruled that Yee’s longtime client, 67, wouldn’t be allowed to testify because of the hypnotherapy sessions. The woman had been going to him since 1998. There was no record that she disclosed any abuse before seeing the hypnotherapist in 2012.

The judge relied on a 30-year-old decision from the state Supreme Court that strictly limits testimony from people who have been hypnotized.

“A hypnotic state produces hypersuggestability and hypercompliance in the subject, making the subject prone to sheer fantasy, willful lies, or a mixture of facts with gaps filled in by fantasy,” Farris quoted from the upper court’s ruling.

The judge wrote that Snohomish County deputy prosecutors didn’t present any experts or literature “to suggest that testimony following hypnosis is considered any more reliable or less dangerous than it was 30 years ago.”

Earlier this month, Farris dismissed three indecent liberties charges against Yee, 80.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Andrew Alsdorf said he was disappointed that the woman “won’t have her day in court.”

He was “prepared to present testimony from multiple women who experienced very similar abuse from (Yee) in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the law regarding previously hypnotized witnesses is very strict and carries consequences this victim never could have predicted when she sought hypnotherapy,” Alsdorf said.

He had argued that woman’s allegations were not the product of her hypnosis. She didn’t seek out hypnotherapy to induce memories of her interactions with the acupuncturist. She didn’t mention the abuse during the hypnotherapy sessions, Alsdorf said.

In her ruling, Farris said there is no way to know what was said in the sessions because the hypnotherapist didn’t record them and didn’t take detailed notes.

Further, prosecutors couldn’t prove that the woman’s testimony would be solely pre-hypnotic memories. She didn’t report the allegations before she was hypnotized and there is no detailed record of what she remembered before she was underwent hypnosis, Farris wrote.

“The testimony of the hypnotist in this case that she can take clients back to the womb and past lives demonstrates that hypnosis continues to be an uncontrolled, unregulated, and unreliable practice,” Farris wrote.

Yee, of Mercer Island, has faced allegations of sex abuse in the past. Between 1990 and 1992, the state Department of Health investigated reports that Yee had inappropriately touched female patients, asked them about their sex lives and engaged in other unwelcome conduct. King County prosecutors declined to file any charges.

Yee kept his license after entering a 1992 agreement with state regulators. Among other conditions, he sought a sexual deviancy evaluation and agreed to only treat female patients in the presence of a woman who could monitor his conduct.

At the time of the recent allegations, Yee had a monitor on staff but the woman was not always present when he was treating patients.

The state Department of Health opened a new investigation in 2014 after Yee was charged in Snohomish County. The department has issued charges against Yee. A licensing hearing is scheduled for later this month. Yee’s license has since expired.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley

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