Two Minnesota women have sued the federal government, alleging that a former probation officer solicited sexual favors and demanded nude photos while he supervised them in separate cases, and their lawyer said he expects more victims to step forward.
The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday, is based on alleged conduct by Dennis Bresnahan while he served as a probation officer from 2014 through late last year.
Attorney Kenneth Udoibok said Bresnahan pressured one of the plaintiffs, Ayesha McKinney, into sending him photos of her breasts — often using his work e-mail — and tried to persuade her to share other photos of an intimate nature.
The complaint alleges that Bresnahan also exploited the “vulnerable mental health condition” of a second plaintiff, Tracina Ross, while supervising her last year by caressing her legs sexually, inviting her to participate in a “threesome” and asking her to go on vacation with him.
“Both women’s psychological profile was available for Dennis Bresnahan to see and each of these women are young women coming out of federal convictions ... and just fearful of returning,” Udoibok said in an interview Thursday. “And that’s what he used.”
Reached by phone on Thursday, Bresnahan declined to comment, saying he hadn’t seen the complaint.
Kevin Lowry, the chief U.S. probation and pretrial services officer for Minnesota, said Bresnahan worked as a probation officer for 25 years before resigning in September 2016 “while on suspension status.” Lowry said allegations against Bresnahan were referred to the U.S. attorney’s office for investigation.
“It is always in the interest of justice and fairness to let that process run its course,” Lowry said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis, which will defend the government in the litigation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Plaintiff recorded one call
McKinney and Ross say the Administrative Office of the United States Courts denied their claims earlier this year and are suing the government for $2 million. Udoibok said the office claimed that Bresnahan’s alleged conduct took place outside of his government duties. But he said a third woman whom he expects to add to the lawsuit said Bresnahan pressured her into sex while he was her probation officer — telling her before a routine home inspection that “I want you to be naked when I get there.”
McKinney, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in December 2014, first raised the allegations at the time of her criminal case. Tunheim, the judge in that case, sentenced McKinney to time already served last year. Udoibok had requested that sentence based in part on her assistance “exposing the sexual abusive behavior” of Bresnahan.
McKinney said Bresnahan alleged that she tested positive in December for cocaine via a “sweat patch” test. She denied the positive test but because Bresnahan didn’t move to revoke her pretrial release, she didn’t contest his allegations. According to the complaint, Bresnahan later procured the positive test results as a “reprisal” for McKinney’s refusal to have sex with him. Though McKinney passed a hair sample drug test in February 2015, she still asked to terminate her pretrial release and consented to detention before sentencing to avoid Bresnahan.
Until then, the complaint said, McKinney had complied when asked to send photos of her breasts “because she felt she had no choice.” But she refused to have sex with one of her girlfriends, as Bresnahan demanded, and denied a request from Bresnahan that she send him photos of her breast-feeding her child.
Udoibok said McKinney recorded a phone call in which Bresnahan asked her to photograph herself performing a sexually explicit act, then sent it to federal authorities. An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the case Thursday.
Bresnahan supervised Ross in an unrelated federal criminal case from February 2016 to September 2016.
Both women now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit.
Udoibok described the case as his first encounter with a troubling probation officer in Minnesota, and said he hoped to see everyone with similar allegations to step forward “for the sake of our system.”
Also Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim disqualified all of Minnesota’s federal district and magistrate judges from presiding over the case because it involves a former Minnesota probation officer.