A 46-year-old St. Louis County social worker has been charged with two felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual contact with a victim to whom he’d been assigned.
Michael Clarence Bryant, of Wrenshall, is alleged to have committed "ongoing sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult," said a criminal complaint filed in District Court in Duluth on Monday.
The abuse was first reported to authorities in February. A therapist observed “behavior she deemed as ‘odd’,” from Bryant toward the victim, including comments about “how she would wear her hair, nails and makeup,” the complaint said.
Bryant has been summoned to appear in court at 1:15 p.m. Aug. 14. He remains employed by St. Louis County, and was not booked into St. Louis County custody as of Thursday.
“St. Louis County is aware of the criminal complaint against Michael Bryant,” the county said in a statement first issued to Duluth’s Fox 21 on Wednesday. “The allegations are deeply concerning. The county is taking this matter very seriously and has fully cooperated with the criminal investigation.”
The county would not confirm separation efforts with Bryant, concluding its statement by saying, “We are working toward a timely resolution to this matter.”
Bryant is charged with criminal sexual contact both on the job and outside of work.
Bryant is alleged to have coerced sex from the victim, telling her “he would take her children away and that if she reported the sexual relationship, he would ruin the victim’s life,” the victim told Duluth Police Department investigators in the complaint.
During her first disclosure to her therapist, the victim said Bryant resented her seeing a therapist and would make her get naked, on her knees and beg for forgiveness, the criminal complaint said. Bryant “tried to impede on the therapy,” telling the woman that “he could provide correct therapy and treatment.”
Bryant had been assigned to the woman in 2017 with the alleged abuse carrying on from March 2017 through early 2019. It continued even after Bryant was removed from the case amid “concerns by other mental health professionals” that he’d crossed boundaries and was behaving inappropriately toward the victim, the criminal complaint said.
Early touching led to intercourse more than an estimated 50 times, and Bryant would stay at her home for up to three hours during daytime hours, the woman told investigators. She took the morning-after pill, and believed she was in a consensual relationship that "became forceful," the complaint said.
On at least one occasion, Bryant is alleged to have pushed the victim down, “held her on the floor,” and had intercourse with her.
The social worker assigned the victim rules to "always protect him," the complaint said, and not putting them in a sexual situation where they could get caught.
“The victim noted that while she was scared, she was more scared for her daughter,” the complaint said.
Bryant is also alleged to have dictated how the daughter was dressed, and would go to the child’s school “to make sure she was being obedient.”
Bryant would call and text the woman throughout the day, and is once alleged to have taken her phone and smashed it, because “he became concerned that their conversations would be retrievable from her phone,” the complaint said.
Bryant began work with St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services in May 2001, the county said. He was a licensed social worker who was assigned to make house visits and counsel families, said his St. Louis County job description shared with the News Tribune.
The county's statement acknowledged its responsibility to public trust.
“Our Public Health and Human Services Department staff works hard to earn trust and help the people we serve,” it said. “The department’s mission is to protect, promote, and improve the health and quality of life in St. Louis County. Allegations of violation of that trust are deeply disappointing.”