An Ohio man has been charged with four counts of sexual imposition, and eight counts overall, after allegedly sucking women's toes at a Toledo mall, WBNS-TV reported Wednesday.
A number of women have accused 29-year-old Joseph Jones of taking off their shoes without permission and sucking their toes, WBNS-TV reported, citing court records. He has also been charged with a count of aggravated menacing and three counts of menacing to cause physical harm. Jones, who has been banned from the mall, has pleaded not guilty.
The incident took place around Christmas time. Victims described in statements that Jones would allegedly take off their shoes, massage their feet and suck their toes without consent, often sparking the conversation by commenting on their shoes. One alleged incident took place in a PacSun store.
The incident was first reported on in mid-January, by local station WTOL. Melissa Portala's 18-year-old daughter sat her down ahead of Christmas and made her promise she would listen to her story of what happened to her at work.
“I was stunned, absolutely stunned. I had no words, I was speechless,” Portala said, according to WTOL. After the story of the peculiar incident was posted to Facebook — how a well-dressed man engaged Portala's daughter, touched her feet and sucked her toes — more women eventually came forward with similar stories.
Portala sparked a mission for police to find the culprit with sheer dedication, even getting arrested for posting flyers at the mall after she was asked to leave.
"I had a responsibility as a mother and to these other women," Portala told WTOL. "[The police] said you are going to be arrested for doing that, and I flippantly said ‘well you are going to have to arrest me and stop me from warning these women.’ I said it flippantly not thinking they would actually arrest me."