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$250,000 bail set for tattoo artist

He faces sex-crime charges by John Lynch | November 30, 2022 at 4:53 a.m.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Cathi Compton set bail at $250,000 on Monday for a Little Rock tattoo and body modification artist accused of raping one client and sexually assaulting three others at studios he's been affiliated with over the past three years.

Compton further barred 39-year-old John Willis James Jr. from accepting clients, although she did agree he could continue to teach twice a week as long as he is never alone with a student. James remained jailed on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Cole Lorigan petitioned the court for James' arrest in September after his third arrest on sex charges, court records show. The judge ordered James arrested after he failed to show up for court five days later, but he surrendered on Oct. 25 and has been in custody ever since. Monday was his first court appearance.

James' first arrest came in November 2019, eight months after his accuser went to police, reporting that he had groped her while inscribing a tattoo on her buttocks at the Dozen Roses Ink and Art Gallery, 6904 Geyer Springs Road.

The 24-year-old woman said James tried to put his mouth on her genitals then groped her. The woman said she got up in shock and put her pants on, telling detectives that James tried to grab her breasts as she was getting up.

According to police reports, the woman said she had been making her second visit to the shop so James could finish her tattoo, and that two friends had accompanied her. One of those friends told police she heard James make a remark about the size of the woman's buttocks, and that when they were leaving the woman was "acting different."

Arrested on a charge of second-degree sexual assault, James denied wrongdoing, spending a night in jail before posting $25,000 bond. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the Class B felony.

James' second arrest came in June 2021, about a year after his second accuser went to police, saying that he had raped her during a middle-of-the-night tattoo session at the Geyer Springs shop, Got Ink Tattoo & Piercing.

According to an arrest affidavit, the 29-year-old woman said she passed out in the chair but was fully clothed when she woke up. The woman said she later realized her tampon was missing so she texted James to ask whether they had been "sexually active" while she was at the shop.

The woman showed police texts purported to have come from James confirming that they had consensual intercourse, which she told police was not true. She told police she'd known James for about eight years.

Charged with rape, a Class Y felony that carries a potential life sentence, James posted $250,000 bond to be released from jail the day after his arrest.

His most recent arrest came in September after two friends had reported in May that James had molested them in separate encounters at the Artistic Soul Tattoo & Piercing studio at 10805 W. Markham St., which is also the location of Arkansas School of Tattooing and Piercing.

One woman said she was getting an ear piercing and that James had been making her feel uncomfortable by touching her hand and calling her "baby," an arrest warrant said. She told investigators that she was looking at the work in a mirror when James "thrusted" his pelvis against her buttocks, while touching her hair and calling her "baby." She said she could tell he was aroused. Williams told her he was substituting for the shop's regular piercer.

Shown a photographic lineup by detectives, the woman could not pick out James' photo, but she was able to show police a photo of him from his Instagram account.

Her friend, the second accuser, was able to identify James by his picture. She told police that she had not seen what had gone on with James and the woman, who did not tell her about what had happened until after they had left the shop. She said she went back to the shop because the tattoo she had received was bad, she was very upset by the work and James had offered to fix it, the arrest affidavit states.

The second accuser said she returned to the shop with another friend. In preparation for the repair work, James lifted her shorts up and rubbed her inner pelvis area, fondling her, while applying numbing ointment, she said. She said her tattoo had been on her thigh and not been obscured by her shorts.

She said she got upset and demanded her money back, confronting James about what the first accuser had told her. He denied the accusations, telling her he did not even know whom she was talking about.

He discouraged her from leaving, telling her he was embarrassed by her tattoo and wanted a chance to fix it, the affidavit states.

When she insisted on leaving, he reimbursed her for half of what she spent, then gave her the rest of the money, saying he did not want his business to get a bad reputation or for anyone to say that he had violated someone.

The woman who went with her told police that she watched James applying the cream and thought he was rubbing the accuser inappropriately, seeing him graze her vagina, the affidavit states. She described the woman having a panic attack in the car once they got out of the shop.

Prosecutors are still reviewing the case to decide whether to charge James. Police recommended he be charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault. James spent about a week in jail before posting $75,000 bond.

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