A former Chicago police officer groped and forcibly kissed a woman while on duty at a Far South Side police station in 2016, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.
Michael Clifton, who according to police retired from the department last year, faces felony charges of criminal sexual abuse and official misconduct. He was arrested Wednesday in south suburban Lansing, police said.
Clifton was on duty, armed and in uniform the morning of Sept. 20, 2016, when a 37-year-old woman came to the Calumet District police station with her children’s father, Assistant State’s Attorney Kenneth Goff said in court Thursday. The woman was trying to get an arrest warrant for someone who allegedly beat her at a nightclub, Goff said.
Clifton was the warrant officer that morning and became “flirtatious” with the woman after she told him she had a girlfriend, prosecutors said. He asked her into his office alone, closed the door and pinned her against the wall, prosecutors said, then groped her, kissed her neck and tried to reach into her clothing while making sexual comments.
He continued until another officer knocked on the door of his office, at which point Clifton backed away from the woman and sat on the corner of his desk, prosecutors said.
The woman, “visibly shaken,” left the station and told her children’s father about the incident, Goff said. The two drove to the Englewood Police District station and filed a complaint against Clifton, prosecutors said.
DNA analysis of a swab from the woman’s neck could not exclude Clifton as a contributor, prosecutors said.
Court records show the woman sued Clifton and the city in the days after the incident. The suit, filed in federal court, says Clifton’s actions “constituted a physical intrusion of a sexual nature under coercive conditions” and accuses the Chicago Police Department of ignoring patterns of abuse by their officers.
The case was settled with lightning speed: The city agreed to pay the woman $100,000 just five weeks after her suit was filed, records show.
Clifton’s attorney, Kelly Krauchun, said in court that Clifton was with the Chicago Police Department for 31 years and has no criminal history. He has two grown sons and coached baseball for 14 years, including with the Jackie Robinson West Little League team, she said. Krauchun declined to comment after the hearing.
Judge David Navarro ordered Clifton held on $100,000 bond, noting that the alleged victim was seeking Clifton’s help after a different attack but “instead was further victimized by the defendant here.” In addition, he said, he had to consider that Clifton was armed at the time of the incident and “in a position of trust.”
Clifton, 59, will need to post $10,000 to get out of jail as his case proceeds.
Thursday’s hearing marks the second time in two weeks that prosecutors detailed allegations of police engaging in sexual misconduct on the job. Last week Chicago police Officer Carlyle Calhoun appeared in court on charges that he sexually assaulted a man in his custody at a South Side hospital last month.