City

Philly Woman Sues Gym Over Sexual Assault by Ex-Con Personal Trainer

He had previously pleaded guilty to rape and indecent assault charges.

The Planet Fitness on Adams Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. (Photo via Google Maps) Inset: Russell Goss Jr. in a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections photo.

Update: After Philly Mag published this story, we were contacted by a national spokesperson for Planet Fitness who claimed that Ronald Goss never worked for the company. The spokesperson refused to make the local franchise owner available for an interview or provide further information or corroboration. The attorney for the plaintiff has not returned a call seeking clarification on this new information.

When you go for a massage in a spa or sign up for a session with a personal trainer at your local gym, do you assume that the person touching your body is free and clear of any disturbing criminal background? You definitely shouldn’t.

Racing star Elena Myers learned that lesson when she went for a massage at Philly’s Loews Hotel, where she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man who had once been charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. And now we’ve learned of a similar accusation involving a Northeast Philadelphia location of Planet Fitness.

A Northeast Philadelphia woman, who asked us to protect her identity, has filed a lawsuit against the Adams Avenue outpost of the publicly traded gym giant, which boasts some 1,400 locations around the country. She alleges that the Planet Fitness location failed to properly vet a personal trainer who attacked her. The suit also names Rhino Rising Sun, Inc. — that’s the Bryn Mawr–based company that owns the Planet Fitness franchise in question — as well as Russell Goss Jr., the woman’s attacker.

The woman says she first encountered Goss at Planet Fitness in 2015. She was a member, and he worked at the gym as a personal trainer, according to the lawsuit. She says he trained or otherwise worked with her on numerous occasions at the gym.

On July 7, 2016, she says that Goss suggested that she purchase a supplemental nutrition program that would fit in well with her workout routine. The suit claims that Goss invited her to his home to see what he had available — this was not, apparently, a Planet Fitness program — and she accepted.

Once she got to his house, police say, Goss drugged her using a protein shake that he had made. After she drank it, she says she felt dizzy. When she tried to leave, she claims that Goss grabbed her breasts and then threw her on the couch and sexually assaulted her.

She filled out a complaint with Special Victims Unit on July 22nd. In between the attack and her interview with detectives, Goss was actually arrested for a separate incident at his home that occurred on July 13th, in which police say he exposed himself to a woman and then restrained her so that she was unable to leave. They charged him with open lewdness, unlawful restraint, and indecent exposure, among other offenses, and he was released on bail the following day.

Later, Goss was charged in the July 7th attack. For that incident, he accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to unlawful restraint, indecent assault and simple assault. For the July 13th attack, he was found guilty of unlawful restraint and false imprisonment. Earlier this year, Goss was sentenced to three-and-a-half to seven years in prison followed by five years of probation. Plus, he’ll be on the Megan’s Law sex offender registry for the rest of his life.

But these arrests weren’t the first for Goss, and that fact is the crux of the woman’s lawsuit. In 1979, he was charged with raping a minor and pleaded guilty to indecent assault and corrupting a minor. And in 1992, he pleaded guilty to rape, statutory rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent exposure, and corruption of minors, according to court records. He spent time in prison.

In her lawsuit, the woman alleges that Planet Fitness had a responsibility to vet Goss and that the company failed to do so. The suit accuses Goss of assault and battery and Planet Fitness of negligence, and seeks unspecified damages.

Toni Rufo, the Bryn Mawr woman who owns the local franchise, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Planet Fitness’s national office gave Philly Mag the following statement: “The safety and wellbeing of our members is our top priority, however per company policy we do not comment on pending litigation.”