Edmonton tattoo artist sentenced to 6.5 years for ‘predatory’ sexual assault on multiple clients

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An Edmonton tattoo artist convicted of sexually assaulting three women by tattooing them has been sentenced to 6.5 years in prison.

Scott Pettitt, owner of Second Skin Custom Tattoos, was charged with sexual assault after a woman reported him to police in 2018. Police encouraged other potential victims to come forward and ultimately charged Pettitt with three additional charges.

He was convicted of three sexual assaults after a jury trial that ended on February 12.

Pettitt, 60, committed the assaults in 2014 and 2018 during tattooing sessions at his northeast Edmonton salon. The three women, whose identities are protected by a publication ban, told the jury that Pettitt put his hands near their vaginal areas without their consent. In two cases, Pettitt penetrated women with his fingers.

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On sentencing Wednesday, Judge Wayne Renke called Pettitt’s conduct “predatory” and said it demonstrates a “model of taking advantage of vulnerable customers.”

“Their bodies bore the mark of what had happened,” Renke said. “The tattoos were visual reminders.”

Four women eventually filed complaints about Pettitt’s behavior. The prosecution was unable to locate one when the time came for her to testify. This accusation was ultimately dismissed.

The first assault took place in the winter of 2014. The woman testified that she planned to have a tattoo on the lower half of her torso, spanning her buttocks and thighs. When she told Pettitt she was in pain, he offered her wine and some of his wife’s prescription pain relievers. The pills made her feel groggy, euphoric and sleepy.

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As the tattoo continued, the woman felt Pettitt grow more “sensitive” on her buttocks. At one point, he tried to insert his fingers into her vagina. She jumped off the table, told Pettitt she couldn’t take the pain anymore, and left the store.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said her experiences with Pettitt “were the most humiliating, degrading and healing times of my life.”

The second assault took place in January 2018. The woman asked Pettitt for a tattoo on her upper leg and when she got to the store he insisted she take her pants off. He eventually touched her vaginal area several times despite repeated requests for it to stop.

The final assault took place later that year, June 1, 2018. The woman testified that Pettitt repeatedly made inappropriate comments during the tattoo session, despite her boyfriend being in the room. . She described feeling numb and thinking “what the hell is he doing?” as Pettitt’s hand wandered off to his pubic area. Finally, he penetrated her vagina with his finger as her boyfriend was walking around the store.

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Second Skin Custom Tattoos at 12981 50 St. NW in Edmonton, Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Scott Pettitt, who ran the store, was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison Wednesday for three sexual assaults.
Second Skin Custom Tattoos at 12981 50 St. NW in Edmonton, Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Scott Pettitt, who ran the store, was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison Wednesday for three sexual assaults. Postmedia

During the trial, jurors viewed photos of the tattoos the women received. A tattoo artist who testified as an expert witness for the Crown reviewed the photos and said that the artist did not need to touch the female genitals to draw the tattoos.

The expert added that she had never accidentally touched someone’s private areas during a tattoo session.

Pettitt unsuccessfully argued that the contact did not take place or that all contact was in fact consensual.

The starting sentence for a “major” sexual assault in Alberta in three years. Crown attorney Chantelle Washenfelder argued Pettitt deserved eight and a half years in prison, including four and three consecutive years for the 2018 assaults because each involved penetration.

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She said Pettitt took advantage of a position of trust and used a weapon – the tattoo gun – during the assaults.

Defense lawyer Gloria Hammermeister pleaded for 18 months, arguing that the assaults could be characterized as minor. She demanded that her client be given 18 months credit for the three years he served on bail, which would not have seen him serving any jail time.

Renke refused to treat the tattoo gun as a weapon, but noted that in two of the cases, the women suffered the additional “embarrassment and humiliation” of being trapped while their attacker was doing the tattoos.

He also declined to credit the time Pettitt spent on bail, noting that he was able to continue working, albeit under surveillance and with a camera in his studio.

Renke also chose not to give credit for the nearly 30 letters of support Pettitt received – many of them former clients, one of whom compared him to a “tattoo artist.” Sexual assaults are committed by people from all walks of life, out of the public eye and often to the surprise of those who thought they knew the abuser best, Renke said.

Pettitt will be required to register as a sex offender under the Federal Sex Offender Information Registration Act.

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