A former prison counselor accused in a lawsuit of using a former inmate as a "sex slave" denied the allegations Thursday, and said the former inmate, Steven Moerman, violated his parole by continuing to contact her after his release and is simply trying to make money by naming her and state officials as defendants.
Susan Clingerman, 44, told the Free Press she and Moerman have "shared responsibility" for carrying on a sexual relationship in 2014 when she worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections and he was an inmate, though she recognizes that in the eyes of the law it was impossible for Moerman to consent to sex with a prison employee.
"If we were two people working in the workforce and we had this type of relationship, you wouldn't think twice," she said.
Clingerman said she suffered from seizures that resulted in her feeling confused and that medical condition contributed to her getting involved in an unlawful relationship with an inmate. The day a corrections officer caught her and Moerman engaged in a sex act was to be her last day of work before going on medical leave, she said.
She said she sometimes felt unsafe while leading group therapy sessions with male inmates and Moerman had taken on a role as her "protector."
Moerman fathered a child with Clingerman while in state custody.
Allegations in the recent lawsuit that she used Moerman as a sex slave, that she targeted him because she wanted a child and that she was taking fertility treatment at the time of the sexual contact are false, Clingerman said in a phone interview.
She also said it wasn't her choice — but the Friend of the Court — that caused her to sue Moerman for paternity and child support.
"Mr. Moerman seems to be blowing this out of proportion," she said.
"Those last few weeks he requested to see me a lot, because he knew I was going on medical leave."
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.
Clingerman forwarded to the Free Press text messages sent between her and Moerman after his release, in which the two expressed love for each other. She said she later learned Moerman had two other girlfriends, and about his plans to sue her and the Corrections Department. She said she called his parole officer and reported Moerman for continuing to contact her when he had been ordered not to do so.
Records show Moerman, of Grand Rapids, is being held in Kent County on a parole violation. He was paroled in February after serving time on a drug charge at Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson.
Sterlin Mesadieu, Moerman's attorney, said his client was the victim in Clingerman's criminal case and it's more likely Clingerman was ordered not to contact Moerman.
Lauren Elster, an Okemos attorney representing Clingerman, said in an e-mail "our office is in the process of responding to the allegations contained within the lawsuit, and at this point I do not believe it would be appropriate to comment further."