Grand Rapids citizen Steven J. Moerman filed suit against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), claiming he was raped by a social worker while he was incarcerated for drug charges. Moerman filed suit in September in Jackson County Circuit Court. Moerman alleged violations by MDOC, the social worker, and several state officials.The lawsuit claims the social worker, Susan Clingerman, used the inmate “as the object of her own sexual gratification” and desperately wished to get pregnant. Clingerman contends that the relationship was consensual, and Moerman is simply trying to make money with the lawsuit.
Moerman claims he was sexually abused and mistreated by Clingerman while he was incarcerated at Parnall Correctional Facility in 2014. Moerman was serving time for manufacturing meth. He was also receiving treatment for mental illness from Clingerman. The therapist allegedly targeted Moerman, began fertility treatment, and then gave birth to his child in August 2014.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants “failed to provide Mr. Moerman humane conditions of confinement” by “allowing him to be sexually assaulted and raped.” It further alleges that the defendants acted “knowingly, voluntarily, recklessly, and with willful disregard to Mr. Moerman’s personal safety.”
Clingerman and Moerman were caught in the act of having sexual relations in September 2014. Clingerman soon thereafter admitted to having sex with Moerman and informed her superiors that she had become pregnant with Moerman’s child. She has since had her social worker license revoked and was fired by the prison system.
In October 2014, Clingerman was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Jackson County. In August 2015, she pleaded guilty to misconduct in office and was sentenced to nine weekends in jail and 18 months of probation.
In a statement, Clingerman said that she knew what she was doing was wrong and that she might get fired, but she did not know she could be prosecuted.
Clingerman’s criminal defense attorney said that given the facts as he understands them, he would expect a full denial of the allegations in the civil case.
Moerman’s attorney stated that Clingerman used his client as a “a virtual sex slave” and demanded “sexual gratification at her whim.” Clingerman was supposed to be treating Moerman for mental illness. Moerman’s attorney said that Clingerman exploited her position of power over him.
The lawsuit mentions one instance in which Clingerman allegedly called Moerman to her office for a counseling session and then proceeded to sexually assault him. Another MDOC counselor allegedly served as a lookout for Clingerman while she sexually assaulted Moerman.
In the spring of 2016, Clingerman filed a paternity complaint against Moerman in Ingham County. A genetic test proved Moerman to be the child’s father.
Clingerman contends that Moerman violated his parole by continuing to contact her after the release. She further claims that the lawsuit is simply a ploy for money. She told reporters that she and Moerman have a “shared responsibility” for carrying on the sexual relationship that was legally forbidden. She further indicated that Moerman’s allegations are “blown out of proportion.”
Moerman claims that he experiences continuing emotional trauma and is seeking damages in excess of $25,000.
A spokesman for MDOC said Clingerman was discharged in early 2015 and otherwise could not comment on the lawsuit.
The sexual assault attorneys at the Neumann Law Group represent injured people throughout Michigan from offices in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Call us at (231) 463-0122 or at (616) 717-5666 for a free consultation.
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