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Over $71,000 Awarded to Michigan Prisoner for Sexual Abuse by Guard

by Matt Clarke


On September 28, 2023, the federal court for the Western District of Michigan awarded a state prisoner $16,975.00 in attorney fees and $4,459.91 in costs in a civil rights lawsuit over his sexual abuse by a state Department of Corrections (DOC) guard. The Court had previously awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages to Patrick Grover on June 30, 2023, including $30,000 to reimburse the costs of counseling sessions.

Grover was incarcerated at Oak Correctional Facility in September 2019 when guard Traci Lange (now Perez) began working in his housing unit. She soon approached him and “commented favorably on his physique,” according to the complaint he later filed. She added that “he needed a woman like her and that she could pull strings to get him home.” Grover recalled he was “uncomfortable” with her “interest and tried to distance himself from her.” But she began “blowing him kisses during rounds, and she wrote him letters in which she stated that ‘she wanted to have sex with him.’”

“On a number of occasions,” the complaint recalled, Perez asked him “to show her his private parts,” and she took him to closets and other places off-camera “to have sex with him.”

Should he refuse or report her, Perez threatened, she would claim he had raped her. “She also threatened to take disciplinary action against him and otherwise ‘make his life miserable if he stopped having sex with her.’” She further claimed to be friends with a deputy warden, a captain and several guards who would retaliate against him. Perez also threatened Grover’s cellmate with segregation should he report the abuse.

Grover then paid other prisoners to report the abuse. One who filed a grievance was immediately retaliated against. Eventually, Grover filed a complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, after which he was subjected to retaliation, he said. He then retained attorney Daniel Randazzo of Rochester Hills to file a federal civil rights complaint against Perez and six other DOC officials who allegedly had actual knowledge of the abuse.

All Defendants but Perez were dismissed from the suit without prejudice for Grover’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies against them. Perez then defaulted. In later proceedings, she did not contest having sex with Grover or writing him letters about it, which were entered into evidence. But she claimed he extorted her to write them and they were untrue.

During the hearing on damages, Perez also claimed the sex was consensual, but her default eliminated that defense. Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Mary Petersen testified about the trauma Grover suffered from the abuse and estimated it would take five years of weekly sessions for him to recover. Describing Grover’s requested $250,000 in compensatory damages as “excessive,” the Court awarded him $30,000 to compensate for the costs of the 182 sessions at $160 per session and $20,000 for emotional and mental distress caused by the sexual abuse. See: Grover v. Perez, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112871 (W.D. Mich.). That was followed by the Court’s award of costs and fees, bringing the total award to $71,434.91. See: Grover v. Perez, USDC (W.D. Mich.), Case No. 1:21-cv-00252.

It is interesting that the Court found $250,000 excessive in a case involving repeated and long-term sexual abuse of a prisoner by a guard who not only threatened retaliation but also carried through on those threats. Would that amount be considered excessive were the prisoner female and the guard male? The psychological harm resulting from sexual manipulation by someone in a position of power is just as great.

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Related legal cases

Grover v. Perez

Grover v. Perez