Money for nothing, kicks for fee

Predator therapist faces big-time penalties

 © 2002 MilwaukeePress.Net
FOX POINT, Wis. (May 28, 2002) --
That new bracelet Donald Platner is wearing is not jewelry.

 The 60-year-old former psychologist is under electronic monitoring in an unusual case that has patients distraught, state regulators frustrated, a judge confused and a top criminal lawyer admitting that this is beyond his expertise.  

Yet no one is surprised.

Donald Platner


It was about 1995 when Christine Metzger first noticed that her mother would return from psychological counseling with hickies on her body, Milwaukee Police Detective Lori Gaglione wrote in an incident supplement dated July 12, 2001.

Later, Metzger learned, the psychologist, Donald Platner, would give her mother “cavity checks” to “determine whether she had been with other men.”

 According to documents in the case, Platner held his patient down and urinated into her mouth, forcing her to swallow it or choke. In fact, he agreed on March 21, 2001, to give his license to practice back to the Wisconsin Psychology Examining Board.

In July 2001, Platner, of Fox Point, was fired from Covenant Behavior Health and the following month, after the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office seized cushions from Platner’s office couch for DNA tests, Platner was charged with sexual exploitation by a therapist, a Class C felony. On March 22, 2002, Platner was convicted after admitting to the allegations that between 1992 and 1999 he had sex hundreds of times with his client. The victim is represented in the restitution phase by Milwaukee attorney Lawrence P. Zieger.

Platner's victim

Platner's 48-year-old victim

 John R. Zwieg, a state prosecutor with the Division of Enforcement, says that a sexual predator is somebody who has been convicted of a sex crime, who has been determined to have a problem and who preys on the weak. “If I were to judge [Platner] I’d call him a predator,” Zwieg says.

So why is Platner running around Fox Point with a bracelet when his victims are worse than before they sought his help? Zwieg says Platner may not be a danger to the community outside the practice of psychotherapy.

 And if he is, probation can be withdrawn.

 Wisconsin law regulates behavior by therapists, and all sex is prohibited between clients and licensed professionals like psychologists, doctors, dentists and even real estate brokers is illegal in Wisconsin. Yet all illegal relationships do not rise to “predator” status, Zwieg says.

 While men are the most frequent violators of the sex-with-clients ban, Zwieg says it is most likely a result of the number of males in the professions. The area in which women are most likely to be victimized by another woman is by a social worker, where women constitute a higher percentage of licensed professionals.

 Most sexual contact by a professional involves a woman as the victim, Zwieg says, and that is also true when women are the professional offenders.

 According to documents obtained by MilwaukeePress.Net, the victim  alleges that there were no real counseling sessions since the early 1990s, and that Platner would show up at her home between office visits to demand “blow jobs.”

 The records also show that this victim is not the first patient to make allegations against Platner. On Aug. 30, 1995 – about the same time Metzger noticed her mother’s hickies -- Investigator Dan Williams of the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing, brought a disciplinary complaint against Platner before the Psychology Examining Board, alleging that Platner was having sex in his office with another woman identified only as “Patient A.”

 On June 19, 1996, the state Division of Enforcement withdrew the complaint after “Patient A” declined to cooperate with discovery, documents show.

 “[Patient A] still is not going to come forward, she hasn’t returned calls since the Platner case came up,” Zwieg says.

 Like many victims whose cases can be documented, Patient A was “frustrated by the process.” But the state cannot bring action without the victim’s testimony, even if there is evidence, Zwieg said.

 “We have a lady getting mental health services who is abused, we need her testimony,” Zwieg says. “She has to undergo cross examination, talking about her sex life. They must be able to tolerate that. It’s hard.

“Most of the time the affair is already over before we get a complaint. Sometimes in an ongoing relationship, the patient is still under the influence of the practitioner. Often, we hear from ex-spouse or a family member. It’s not so much revenge as they don’t want it to happen to somebody else.”

It may take 10 more years of therapy for the victim to overcome the psychological damage from her experiences with Platner – if she can gather the resolve to go into therapy again.

Platner's victim wants her future medical costs paid for up front as restitution, a condition Stephen Glynn, Platner’s attorney, balks at. That would be more than $170,000. Glynn said damages were a civil matter, outside his criminal expertise.

But William Ryan Halloran Jr., a board certified psychiatrist and forensic psychiatric fellow, is an expert witness who says that Platner's victim now suffers from depressive disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and panic attacks. Halloran says in a letter after meeting with the victim that treatment to overcome the disorders stemming from Platner's mistreatment could take from three to 20 years. 

Even Circuit Court Judge M. Joseph Donald was taken aback by the restitution request although the statute provides for payment, saying he was unprepared to deal with it at that time. He set a date of June 21 for further proceedings.

“The criminal justice system is not set up for full- blown civil trials,” Glynn says. “The restitution statute says general damages, like pain and suffering, impairment of employment opportunities, mental anguish, are not to be included.

But Zieger will leave those issues to another court. In the criminal case in Judge Donald's court, he has forced Platner to hire a second attorney to deal with the restitution battle, and both sides agree the victim is entitled to something. The only question is how much. 

“Is Platner a predator?" Glynn asks rhetorically. "No. Will he go on the sex offender registry? Yes, I think so.”

Village Police Officer Dan Obremski says information about sex offenders that the village is required by law to make public is available when the chief or captain are on duty.