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Minnesota Civil Detainee Raped by Cellmate Receives $203,000 Settlement

The state of Minnesota agreed to a $203,000 settlement in a lawsuit brought by a civil detainee at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) that alleged a policy or custom of disregarding patient safety, resulting in the detainee suffering “a brutal physical and sexual assault by his roommate.”

MSOP detainee Michael Mrozek, 24, was celled with Brian Sorenson, 38, who allegedly had a “history of violent and harassing actions toward other patients” as well as a “history of sexually predatory conduct” that had resulted in his commitment to MSOP.

The complaint alleged that “on or about December 18, 2010,” Sorenson sat down on Mrozek’s bed as he was trying to go to sleep. His close proximity made Mrozek uncomfortable. In response to Mrozek’s request for Sorenson to leave, Sorenson instead laid down on the bed next to him.

Sorenson then went back to his own bed, but began discussing how they could “sexually act out without getting caught.” Mrozek responded he was not interested. Sorenson then asked Mrozek “what he would do if he woke up in the middle of the night and found someone standing over him.”

Both Mrozek and Sorenson reported the incident to their separate “core groups” – a group of detainees who live in the same unit and meet in therapy sessions facilitated by MSOP staffers. The members in Sorenson’s group insisted that he be moved to another cell to protect Mrozek’s safety, but MSOP staff took no action other than documenting the incident.

Shortly after midnight on December 30, 2010, Sorenson began physically assaulting Mrozek, slapping him and threatening further harm. Sorenson demanded that Mrozek perform oral sex or consent to anal sex. In the face of Mrozek’s refusals, Sorenson forcibly removed Mrozek’s clothing, made him perform oral sex and forcibly sodomized him. He continued to hit Mrozek and placed a belt around his neck while threatening to kill him. MSOP records showed that at about 1:50 a.m., Mrozek was finally able to activate the cell’s intercom to alert staff about the assault.

Sorenson subsequently admitted to attacking Mrozek, pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and was transferred to a state prison. Mrozek filed suit against MSOP officials in federal court, and the case settled after three years of litigation.

The settlement provides that Mrozek receive $131,102.90 in damages and his counsel, Jordan Kusher, receive $71,897.10 in attorney fees and costs. The state also paid the cost of the mediation hearing and waived a $1,072.04 medical assistance tort recovery claim for Mrozek’s medical treatment. Finally, Minnesota Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Anne M. Barry issued a letter of apology to Mrozek, stating the agency “sincerely regrets the sexual assault” that he endured. See: Mrozek v. Ringler, U.S.D.C. (D. Minn.), Case No. 0:11-cv-02572-JRT-SER. 

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Related legal case

Mrozek v. Ringler