LANSING - A former state prison inmate who fathered a child with a prison counselor while serving time in a Jackson-area prison is suing the Michigan Department of Corrections and state officials, saying he was forced into sex and officials should have known what was happening.
Steven Moerman of Grand Rapids alleges prison counselor Susan Lee Clingerman used him as "a virtual sex slave, demanding sexual gratification at her whim," while he was imprisoned at Parnall Correctional Facility on a drug charge in 2014 and receiving counseling for mental illness.
In a lawsuit filed in September in Jackson County Circuit Court, Moerman alleges prison officials knew or should have known what was happening because another prison counselor acted as a lookout for Clingerman.
The suit, which names Gov. Rick Snyder, the corrections department and current and former prison officials as defendants, alleges sexual assault, emotional distress and inadequate hiring, training and supervision, among other counts. It seeks unspecified damages.
"Defendants failed to provide Mr. Moerman humane conditions of confinement by knowingly, voluntarily, recklessly, and with willful disregard to Mr. Moerman's personal safety, allowing him to be sexually assaulted and raped," according to allegations in Moerman's lawsuit filed by Okemos attorney Sterlin Mesadieu.
Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the corrections department, said Clingerman was banned from prison property in September 2014 and fired in January 2015. The investigation turned up no evidence of another employee acting as a lookout for Clingerman, he said. Gautz otherwise declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation.
Attempts to reach Clingerman on Wednesday through her family and a former attorney were unsuccessful.
In September 2014, a Parnall corrections officer caught Clingerman and Moerman having sex in her office, according to prison records filed as exhibits with the lawsuit. Corrections Officer Timothy Hampton told the Michigan State Police he looked through the glass door of Clingerman's office and saw her bent over a chair. When he walked into the office, he saw Clingerman jump up and pull her skirt down and Moerman pull his pants up, according to a police report.
Clingerman, 44, of Mason signed a statement saying she'd had sex with Moerman, who also is 44, "on at least four occasions," and "I am pregnant w/ his child."
In her written statement, Clingerman said she had a relationship with Moerman.
"I did not know I could be prosecuted for this," she said. "I knew I could get into trouble — including firing."
Under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, a prisoner is inherently unable to consent to sex with a prison employee, such as a counselor, because of the imbalance of power between them.
The state police charged Clingerman with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, but she instead pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misconduct in office, which kept her off the sex offender registry, records show. A Jackson County judge sentenced Clingerman to 27 days in jail and 18 months of probation, records show.
Moerman, who is on parole, alleges Clingerman was "desperately wishing to conceive a child," and "intentionally targeted (him) and began fertility treatment."
In April of this year, one month before she filed a paternity suit against Moerman, Clingerman signed an administrative consent order that revoked her social worker license. A DNA test showed Moerman is the father of the child born to Clingerman in April 2015, according to an exhibit filed with the lawsuit.
Moerman would now like to have shared custody of the child, Mesadieu said.
Mesadieu wouldn't disclose the nature of the mental illness Moerman was being counseled for, but said trauma from his experience with Clingerman has made things worse.
The condition is debilitating enough that Moerman can't work, and his only income is from Social Security, the attorney said.
(2016 © Detroit Free Press)