Correction: WAVY has updated this story to correct the official charges against Young.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A year ago, a local HVAC owner in Virginia Beach was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a former employee. Tuesday marked the start of his three-day trial in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.
The defendant, 43-year-old Ben Young, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Young, the former owner of Hybrid Air in Virginia Beach, faces charges of forcible sexual penetration and forcible sodomy, and took the stand Wednesday.
Young took the stand as a witness in his own defense.
Just before, his attorneys had moved, unsuccessfully, to strike the force elements from both of his charges, along with the sodomy charge, on a technicality (He’s also charged with forcible sexual penetration).
That came a day after the victim, a young woman, described to the court how Young had put most of his body weight on her legs while initiating unwanted sexual contact.
Young had hired the woman after she was fired from a country club he frequented at the time. After just four days on the job, he called to say that he had to let her go for financial reasons. The following Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, she came in to pick up her first and only paycheck.
That was when the incident occurred, and where their stories diverge.
Young was adamant that he hadn’t invited her there to have sex.
“She had expressed herself that she was f***ing pissed,” he testified.
“I needed her to understand that this wasn’t coming from me,” he said, referring to the decision to terminate her short-lived employment.
Once inside his office, the victim described Young initiating a leg massage that left her feeling shocked and uncomfortable. It then escalated, without consent or communication, to unwanted sexual contact.
Both agreed that when she said she didn’t want the situation to continue, he ended physical contact. Their testimonies differed entirely in their descriptions of the victim’s reactions.
“She was perfectly fine. … She had nothing of uncomfortableness at all,” he said.
Young denied an element of the sexual encounter, but not the incident as a whole. At one point, he acknowledged to the court that he hadn’t asked the victim for permission.
Surveillance video from the business showed Young following her out to her car afterward.
“Appreciate you keeping this between us,” he said he told her, acknowledging that he was married and believed she was also in a relationship at the time.
A longer-term employee of the business testified that at some time during her short employment, the victim referred to Young as a gross old man.
That witness expressed confusion around Young’s hiring of the victim, saying she knew the company was trying to cut employees at the time due to financial problems. She also testified that Young was the only person who knew the key code to his locked office door.
One of the prosecutors in the case confronted Young with the fact that he was 23 years older than the victim at the time.
He replied that he only became aware of that after the fact. Through further questioning, he explained that despite having her come into the business to do new-hire paperwork when she started the job, he was only sure she was of drinking age.
Young’s testimony marked the last in this trial.
Closing arguments will be made Thursday morning and the jury is expected to begin deliberations shortly after.
The alleged incident took place back in August 2022. The victim testified in court that 43-year-old Young began massaging her leg when she came in to pick up her first and only paycheck, and that quickly escalated from unwanted touching to sexual contact. The young woman said she was afraid of getting hurt and in shock during the assault.
10 On Your Side previously reported that the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office said a “staggering” number of women came forward with similar accusations when news broke of Young’s arrest.
The judge expects the trial to continue for another two days.
At a September bond hearing, a defense attorney told a judge that the sexual contact between Young and the woman was consensual.
Stay with 10 On Your Side on air and online as we continue to follow this case.