Edmonton tattoo artist gets 6 1/2 years for ‘predatory’ sexual assaults on multiple female clients

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Warning: this story contains details some readers may find disturbing.

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An Edmonton tattoo artist convicted of sexually assaulting three women while tattooing them has been sentenced to 6 1/2 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 eventually charged Pettitt with three additional counts.

He was convicted of three sexual assaults after a jury trial that concluded Feb. 12.

Pettitt, 60, committed the assaults in 2014 and 2018 during tattooing sessions at his northeast Edmonton parlour. 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 the women with his fingers.

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In passing his sentence Wednesday, Justice Wayne Renke called Pettitt’s conduct “predatory” and said it demonstrated a “pattern of taking advantage of vulnerable clients.”

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

Four women ultimately came forward with complaints about Pettitt’s behaviour. The Crown was unable to locate one when it came time for her to testify. That charge was ultimately dismissed.

The first assault occurred during the winter of 2014. The woman testified she planned to get a tattoo on the lower half of her torso, extending onto her buttocks and thighs. When she told Pettitt she was in pain, he offered her wine and some of his wife’s prescription painkillers. The pills made her groggy, euphoric and sleepy.

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As the tattooing continued, the woman felt Pettitt becoming more “touchy” on her buttocks. At one point, he tried to insert his fingers into her vagina. She leapt off the table, told Pettitt she could no longer handle the pain, and left the store.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said her experiences with Pettitt “were the most humiliating, demeaning and scarring moments of my life.”

The second assault occurred in January 2018. The woman asked Pettitt for a tattoo on her upper leg, and when she arrived at the shop, he insisted she remove her pants. He eventually touched her vaginal area multiple times despite repeated requests that he stop.

The final assault happened later that year, on June 1, 2018. The woman testified Pettitt repeatedly made inappropriate comments during the tattooing session, despite the fact her boyfriend was in the room. She described feeling numb and thinking “what the hell is he doing?” as Pettitt’s hand strayed toward her pubic area. Eventually, he penetrated her vagina with his finger while her boyfriend walked around the shop.

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Second Skin Custom Tattoos at 12981 50 St. NW in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Scott Pettitt, who ran the shop, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison Wednesday for three sexual assaults.
Second Skin Custom Tattoos at 12981 50 St. NW in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Scott Pettitt, who ran the shop, was sentenced to 6 1/2 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 there was no need for the artist to touch the women’s genitals to draw the tattoos.

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

Pettitt argued unsuccessfully that the touching did not occur, or that any touching was in fact consensual.

The starting point sentence for a “major” sexual assault in Alberta in three years. Crown prosecutor Chantelle Washenfelder argued Pettitt deserved 8 1/2 years in prison, including four and three years consecutive 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.

Defence lawyer Gloria Hammermeister argued for 18 months, arguing the assaults could be characterized as minor. She asked that her client receive 18 months worth of credit for the three years he served on bail, which would have seen him serve no jail time.

Renke declined to treat the tattoo gun as a weapon but noted that in two of the cases, the women suffered the added “embarrassment and humiliation” of being stuck while their attacker completed the tattoos.

He also declined to grant credit for time Pettitt spent on bail, noting he was able to continue to work, albeit under supervision and with a camera in his studio.

Renke also opted against granting credit for the nearly 30 letters of support Pettitt received — many of them from former clients, one of whom likened him to a “tattoo therapist.” 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 perpetrator 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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twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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