Attorney Jonathan P. Groth filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of a Milwaukee woman who was sexually assaulted by a therapist at Renew Counseling Services in Milwaukee.
According to the lawsuit and prior Milwaukee police investigation, the victim was receiving counseling at Renew under the care of John Palmer, 61, beginning in December of 2004. The following spring Palmer began making sexual advances towards the victim during her individual therapy sessions. The lawsuit and prior police investigation allege that Palmer’s advances became more aggressive during three separate sessions resulting in Palmer asking the victim to remove her pants and underwear while he did the same. Palmer then had intercourse with the victim in his office.
In May of 2005, the victim reported the incidents to Patricia Croatt, 74, owner of Renew Counseling Service and requested that she be assigned a female therapist. The lawsuit alleges that Croatt was aware of Palmer’s actions and did nothing to reprimand Mr. Palmer, provide a female therapist, or notify the proper authorities. It wasn’t until the victim received counseling from her pastor, Reverend Harold Eppley, that the incidents were reported to the Milwaukee Police Department.
Attorneys subsequently discovered Palmer had been found guilty on 8 counts of improperly sheltering animals stemming from a 2002 criminal case in Ozaukee County. Court records show that Palmer faced a total of 24 counts of various forms of animal mistreatment in that case, including 8 counts of Intentionally Mistreating Animals. Palmer was on probation at the time of the sexual assaults.
“Had Renew Counseling Services done a simple investigation on Mr. Palmer, they would have been alerted to his criminal history…preventing his employment and preventing this sexual exploitation,” said attorney Groth. “Instead a man, who clearly should never have been allowed to work in this type of environment, heinously abused an already emotionally, physically, and psychologically fragile woman.”
The lawsuit alleges Renew Counseling Services failed to properly hire, train, or supervise Palmer, implement adequate policies, procedures, and protections to prevent incidences such as this one and failed to properly respond to warnings concerning the dangerous condition created by Palmer’s employment.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office has charged Palmer with the felony crime, Sexual Exploitation by Therapist. A warrant has been issued for his arrest. Facing civil, as well as criminal charges, Palmer fled in July of 2007 and was later apprehended in Tennessee.