Ferndale chiropractor has sex crime charges reduced, sentenced to two months house arrest

Terry Ray Rouse makes his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham on July 5.
Terry Ray Rouse makes his first appearance in Whatcom County Superior Court in Bellingham on July 5. eabell@bellinghamherald.com

A Ferndale chiropractor accused of sexually touching two patients without their consent was sentenced Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court to two months of house arrest.

Terry Ray Rouse, 57, pleaded guilty that same day to one count of third-degree assault. His charges were dropped down from three counts of indecent liberties by a health care provider, according to court records.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey said following the wishes of the patients is important, but acknowledged there was a weakness regarding one of the charges.

“I contacted the victims about what they thought about punishment … and neither were looking for punishment, that was not important. The factor in this case was they wanted to make sure Terry Rouse didn’t do this again,” Richey said.

Richey said the negotiations to plead Rouse’s charges down were based on the women’s wishes – although one changed her mind and expressed wanting a harsher sentence in court at Rouse’s sentencing – as well as Rouse’s lack of prior criminal history.

“I understand how the community views this as a real serious crime and I think that this was resolved in a good manner given who he is and what he did,” Rouse said. “It’s a felony conviction and with the notoriety it’s gained, I think this was the right result for this defendant and for the community. I feel like the community is protected.”

In August 2016, the Washington State Department of Health suspended Rouse’s chiropractic license, which he’s held since 1992. In its investigation, the Health Department accused Rouse of sexually touching three patients without their consent, while the Superior Court case only referred to two patients.

Rouse has asked for a hearing on the matter, but the Health Department hasn’t set a date yet, said David Johnson, a spokesman for the department.

Rouse owned Rouse Chiropractic Clinic at 2068 Vista Drive.

As part of his sentence in the criminal case, Rouse cannot seek or accept employment as a chiropractor for the next five years. If he does, he’s in violation of his sentence and the prosecutor may seek additional sanctions.

Richey said Rouse will not be required to register on an offender list.

One of the women in the court case is a licensed massage therapist who rented a space from Rouse. The two verbally agreed to trade services. At a chiropractic session in spring 2015, Rouse touched her genitals, according to court records.

The woman said she “froze, felt dizzy, ashamed, shocked and overwhelmed,” according to the records. She didn’t report it because she believed it was an isolated incident, but Rouse then sexually touched the woman without her consent on two other separate occasions, according to court records.

In June of 2016, the second woman had an appointment with Rouse at his clinic. Rouse asked his secretary to leave for the day and then sexually touched the patient, according to court records. That woman said she, too, “felt embarrassed, uncomfortable and paralyzed.” She went that day to St. Joseph hospital for a sex crime evaluation.

A few days after her appointment with Rouse, the second woman went to the first woman for a massage therapy treatment. That was when the two disclosed to each other their encounters with Rouse, according to court records.

During an interview with investigators, Rouse initially denied that anything inappropriate happened with either woman, but later changed his story and said the sexual contact with the massage therapist was consensual, according to court records. He later admitted he may have accidentally touched the second woman, court records indicated.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt