A psychologist is accused of having sex with two clients at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake.

Michelle Dawn Brownfield, 38, of Duluth, is charged with two counts third-degree criminal sexual conduct after an investigation found she had inappropriate relationships with two men she was assigned to treat, according to the criminal complaint. MSOP is a secure treatment facility serving clients committed as sexually dangerous or sexually psychopathic personalities.

According to the criminal complaint, one victim was referred to Brownfield in 2016 for assessments. The pair developed a relationship that included sexual activity in the MSOP assessment room. The victim was transferred to the Minnesota Department of Corrections in 2017 and left the facility until returning in 2019. During that time, Brownfield communicated with the victim using his sister as a go-between.

When the victim returned to the MSOP facility, he and Brownfield would talk, but sexual activity did not resume, the complaint said.

Michelle Dawn Brownfield
Michelle Dawn Brownfield

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During the investigation, officers also learned of an illicit relationship between Brownfield and a second MSOP client that began in fall 2017, according to the complaint. The second victim told Brownfield he was aware of the other victim and the pair began discussing the relationship and sex. The pair met and engaged in sexually explicit behavior in the assessment room and in February 2018, the two had sex in the MSOP polygraph room.

In text messages found on Brownfield’s phone and sent to the first victim’s sister between October 2018 and August 2020, Brownfield expressed “strong romantic feelings” for the victim, the complaint said. Brownfield’s texts also reference a relationship with another person corresponding to the time Brownfield was allegedly sexually active with the second victim. Brownfield’s text messages highlighted the emotional toll when the victim was transferred to the DOC facility, the stress of leading a double life and that her career was in jeopardy.

In text messages to the second victim’s girlfriend outside the facility, Brownfield refers to both victims by initials and discusses an ongoing investigation, the complaint said. After being contacted by the Moose Lake Police Department, Brownfield continued engaging in text communication regarding the investigation and excuses she made to law enforcement to avoid a meeting.

Investigators collected Brownfield’s phone and an analysis by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows the phone contained a “great deal” of graphic material, including sexually explicit photos of Brownfield, according to the complaint. The data also corroborated a statement by one of the victims that Brownfield has a piercing on an intimate part of her body.

In a statement emailed to the Pine Journal, Minnesota Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson said DHS, which oversees MSOP, looks into any allegation of misconduct by staff.

“We expect all staff to maintain strict professional boundaries at MSOP," Johnson said. "That’s essential in any therapeutic setting, and anything less is unacceptable. Under data privacy laws, we can’t comment on specific personnel matters. However, generally speaking, any allegation of sexual contact between a staff member and client is taken seriously, treated with urgency and examined thoroughly. We involve law enforcement whenever the situation calls for it and we cooperate fully in their investigations.”

If convicted, Brownfield faces up to 15 years in prison, a $30,000 fine or both for each count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

This story was updated at 9:56 a.m. Tuesday, April 27, with a statement from Minnesota Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson. It was originally posted at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 26.