JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After an incident in late January, a local business faced a full walk-out of all employees, a Johnson City man was arrested on Valentine’s Day and charged with sexual battery and the same business has been temporarily closed.
According to an affidavit filed with Washington County General Sessions Court, an employee of a business located at 811 W Walnut St in Johnson City told Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) officers that Jacob Speiss, 37, had assaulted her on Jan. 25. After an investigation, Spiess was arrested on Feb. 14.
811 W Walnut St is the listed location of Bebettes: A New Orleans Coffeehouse.
According to the affidavit, the victim told officers that while she was in the back of the business, Speiss had begun giving her a back massage. Officers said the victim described the massage as “unwanted,” and that after a few minutes Spiess began touching her in other areas of her body.
After the incident, investigators say the employee quit her job and obtained an order of protection against Speiss. According to the affidavit, business owners told investigators that Speiss’s employment had been terminated due to the allegations, and that he had informed them he had given the victim a back massage that “went to[o] far.”
“Jacob was the store manager of our Johnson City location,” business owners told News Channel 11. “He was terminated after he informed us of a relationship with one of his staff members that did not meet our code of conduct. Later that day another team member informed us of the allegations that Jacob assaulted the team member.”
According to the affidavit, Speiss reportedly arrived at JCPD headquarters to discuss the incident and told officers that while the two had been “flirtatious” in the past, he had only hugged the victim that day.
“The team was very close with Jacob and all resigned together,” the business owners said.
News Channel 11 reached out to the owners for clarification on why they resigned but at this time has not heard back.
“All of our staff quit the night of the sexual assault, 1/25, in solidarity with the victim,” former assistant manager Hannah Robertson told News Channel 11. “We collectively decided to stop working at Bebettes because we did not want to work for a sexual assailant. We all wrote letters and put them in the mailbox with our keys. The next morning, 1/26, the owner texted me and asked why we quit. I told her about what happened to the victim and that we were all horrified.
“We didn’t feel comfortable going back to work at a place where our friend was harmed. It’s true that we were all friends which is what has made the sexual assault so much more gut wrenching and depressing. We support the victim and care about her very much.”
Robertson said she did not see “flirtatious” behavior between Spiess and the employee during her time at Bebettes, and that there was no relationship between the two.
“Bebettes is a female owned company and does not tolerate any type of harassment or inappropriate conduct,” owners said. “We are currently making improvements in the restaurant and restaffing.”
The business was previously seen with signs stating that operations were halted for a winter break from Jan. 26 to Feb. 28. Owners told News Channel 11 that service is expected to resume March 8.
Spiess is set to appear in a criminal hearing on March 29, in Washington County General Sessions Court. Court records list a “special judge” as presiding over the case, and Spiess has been released on a $7,500 bond.