A former St. Louis County social worker was in court Wednesday to face charges of repeatedly sexually assaulting a client in his care.
Michael Clarence Bryant, 46, of Wrenshall, was arraigned in State District Court in Duluth on two felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson referred Bryant for pretrial supervised release, alternatively setting bail at $20,000. The judge also ordered him to surrender any firearms and keep at least 200 yards away from the victim and her children.
While Bryant was charged by summons and has been free for the past month, St. Louis County prosecutor Jessica Fralich had asked the judge to set bail at $50,000, citing the severity of the alleged offenses and concerns about his future appearances in court.
Fralich said Bryant recently had his permit to carry revoked by the Carlton County Sheriff's Office for unspecified reasons and indicated he was subject to additional investigations in St. Louis County.
Defense attorney John Leunig argued bail was unnecessary. He said Bryant does not have any firearms in his possession, has stayed away from the victim and appeared as ordered at Wednesday's hearing.
Leunig, a Twin Cities attorney, was recently retained by Bryant and said he has yet to receive any evidence, but expects it to be voluminous.
"We'll move forward and contest these charges," he said.
Bryant is alleged to have coerced sex from the victim both on and off the job, telling her "he would take her children away and that if she reported the sexual relationship, he would ruin the victim's life," according to a criminal complaint.
The alleged 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 had been assigned to the woman in 2017 with the alleged assaults 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 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 the day, 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 sexually assaulted 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. Bryant allegedly would call and text the woman throughout the day, once taking her phone and smashing it because he was concerned that their conversations could be retrieved, according to the complaint.
Bryant also is alleged to have dictated how the victim's daughter dressed and would go to her school "to make sure she was being obedient."
Bryant worked for St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services from 2001 until the allegations surfaced this year.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 8.