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Duluth doctor suspended after sex accusation

Steven Erlemeier

A Duluth physician's license to practice medicine in Minnesota has been indefinitely suspended after he admitted to engaging in "bizarre behavior" last July.

The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice imposed the discipline on Dr. Steven Erlemeier, 53, who was working as a neurologist for St. Mary's Duluth Clinic, without elaborating on what the bizarre behavior included.

However, a 59-year-old Louisiana man told the News Tribune, Duluth police and the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault last July that Erlemeier took him to his home for treatment and sexually assaulted him there. According to St. Mary's Medical Center discharge papers the man provided to the newspaper, another SMDC physician noted in his report that Erlemeier planned to have "the patient discharged home in his care."

John Kelly, Erlemeier's Duluth attorney, said Wednesday that his client denies sexually assaulting the patient and that the medical board ordered the suspension because Erlemeier "was experiencing a bipolar episode and it wasn't medically controlled."

Kelly said the "bizarre behavior" consisted of "checking [the Louisiana man] out of the hospital and taking him to his house to spend the night because the fellow told him he had no money and was up here looking for work."

According to the stipulation and order of the medical board filed last month:

* The board received a report in July that Erlemeier had been admitted to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and subsequent treatment. The board initiated an investigation by the state Attorney General's office, which revealed that Erlemeier had been admitted to the hospital in July with an initial diagnosis of "manic behavior."

* The doctor was discharged from the hospital in August with a diagnosis of "psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified, with diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder ... and a history of depression with anxiety. In September, he entered into a participation agreement and monitoring plan with the Health Professionals Services Program in St. Paul for ongoing monitoring of a psychiatric disorder. In December, he admitted to the medical board's complaint review committee that he had engaged in bizarre behavior and had been admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Sgt. Ann Clancey, supervisor of the Duluth police Sex Crimes, Abuse, Neglect and Domestic Violence Unit, said Tuesday that the alleged sexual assault was reported in July. Clancey said police investigated the matter and brought no charges. The case has been suspended but not closed.

"The potential is there for the case to reopen if the situation changes or additional information comes in," Clancey said. She declined further comment, citing a data privacy law that allows law enforcement to withhold information that might expose the identity of a victim of sexual assault.

The News Tribune generally does not identify victims or alleged victims of criminal sexual assault.

Alleged victim had child molestation conviction

The Louisiana man was taken into custody in Duluth on Sept. 8 when it was reported to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office that he had been convicted of child molestation in 1994 in Georgia and failed to register as a sex offender. A St. Louis County sheriff's deputy checked with agencies in Georgia and was not provided information that would support any new criminal charge against the man. He was released from jail.

Erlemeier and the patient who said the doctor sexually assaulted him couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Louisiana man told the News Tribune in July that Erlemeier took him home and sexually assaulted him while displaying other bizarre and erratic behavior -- including compiling a list of people he wanted "to dispatch to God."

SMDC Spokeswoman Kim Kaiser said Wednesday that Erlemeier is no longer employed by SMDC.

The Louisiana man provided the News Tribune with a copy of the medical transcripts of his examinations by Erlemeier, who was a neurology specialist at the Duluth Clinic Third Street Building, and Dr. Peter Aas, a hospitalist/Internal Medicine physician.

Erlemeier's report said, "[The Louisiana man] will be staying with me directly. Will observe for any seizures, visual changes, and address his medical -- particularly neurologic needs in this immediate time frame."

Aas' report stated: "I should note that Dr. Erlemeier is still finishing up his consult, but plans to have the patient discharged home in his care this afternoon. The patient is otherwise doing well and has no current complaints."

Kaiser said she had "no information" on whether SMDC has a policy regarding physicians taking patients to a physician's home; she wouldn't comment further.

The patient said he traveled by bus to Duluth to work. He's diabetic and said that his "eyes stopped working" on the bus trip. He reported to the Duluth Clinic. According to medical records he was there July 17-18.

The patient, who is paralyzed on one side and uses a cane, said Aas was his attending physician but Aas called in Erlemeier. "He said he [Erlemeier] was a friend of his and was their best, most experienced neurologist," the patient said.

"Dr. Erlemeier explained that he would like for me to come home with him. That he would sign me out of the hospital. I would live in his condominium and he would watch my vision, my epilepsy and neurological problem over a couple of months and he would devise a treatment plan. Dr. Aas said that sounded like a perfect fit."

He said he suffered some bruising of his backside and genitalia as a result of the alleged assault by the doctor. He said he received drug treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and sexual assault counseling from PAVSA.

The Louisiana man credited PAVSA for aiding his recovery, specifically program development specialist Sue Marks, who provided support, he said.

"The hospital called a sexual assault team from PAVSA. Once PAVSA got there, man, they changed my life," the patient said. "That's got to be the best organization I've ever seen. They not only protected me when I was at the hospital, but they put me in a hotel. I mean, they are first class."

Candice Harshner, executive director of PAVSA, said she wasn't aware of the Louisiana man's prior conviction when he first sought help, but her agency's mission is to provide support to anyone who is a victim of sexual assault.

"The uniqueness of this case is that he is a male and a male with special needs," she said. "Male victims are so much more rare. The system just isn't as equipped."

Harshner said that the Louisiana man left Duluth and didn't leave a forwarding address.