Well-known attorney Mike Morse has been accused of sexually assaulting a Novi woman at a Farmington Hills restaurant last month, according to a $10 million civil lawsuit filed Monday in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Morse, a Southfield-based personal injury attorney, fired back Monday, saying the allegations are false and the lawsuit was an attempt to extort money from him and harm his reputation.
“People approach me to take selfies on a regular basis and I thought nothing of it when this woman asked,” Morse said Monday afternoon. “But there’s something else important I want to address. This lawsuit is a bogus, manufactured lawsuit and an attempt to extort money from me by the Fieger Law Firm.”
According to the lawsuit, the incident occurred around 10 p.m. April 6 at Lelli’s Inn on the Green, where the woman had been dining with friends. The woman, Renee Swain, has allowed her identity to be known, her attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, said during a news conference Monday afternoon.
“She believes that his activities have got to come to an end and she intends to put them to an end,” he said.
Also named in the complaint is restaurant owner Mark Zarkin, who is accused, along with Morse, of trying to encourage Swain not to file a complaint against Morse.
Zarkin did not immediately respond Monday to a message seeking comment.
According to the lawsuit, Morse approached Swain, whom he had never met, and began a conversation at the restaurant. He asked to take a photo with Swain and her friends, then asked if she wanted to take a selfie with him, the complaint alleges.
“He promoted himself as a famous person who she would like to have a picture with,” Fieger said. “That was the guise under which he brought her to a room or an area of the restaurant where he encouraged her to take a selfie and at that point, as the complaint alleges, began the sexual molestation.”
Swain alleges that Morse grabbed her breasts and asked if that made the photo better. After telling her friends what happened, Swain went to the Farmington Hills Police Department that night to report the alleged assault, according to the lawsuit.
After being told that it would Morse’s word against hers, Swain agreed to be wired by the Farmington Hills Police Department, Fieger said.
Swain said that she was repeatedly contacted by Morse and Zarkin. She agreed to meet with them.
“She recorded Mr. Morse’s confession regarding the sexual assault,” Fieger said. “That wire was then taken back to the Farmington Hills Police Department.”
Cmdr. Jeff King of the Farmington Hills Police Department said Monday that the department would not confirm or deny an investigation.
“In this case, we are not making any comment,” King said.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Morse said the “shocking” and “outrageous” allegations are from a woman who approached him to take a photo at a crowded restaurant.
“Mr. Fieger has told people recently that he is angry with me because a former client of his fired him and hired me and I settled the case for a substantial amount of money in the past few months,” Morse said. “There’s a history of Mr. Fieger attempting to disparage me in commercials and his blog posts.”
Morse said multiple witnesses were present who can support his claim that he did not touch the woman as she has alleged.
“This lawsuit is complete and utter nonsense and I will vigorously defend myself against these false claims,” he said.
Fieger said the lawsuit has nothing to do with competition for business.
“I don’t know him,” Fieger said of Morse. “I’ve never met him. All I know is the activity that’s documented in the complaint is not in any way, shape or form acceptable for attorneys. The fact that he is a well-known attorney is irrelevant to me.”
Fieger said Monday that the Police Department is handling the case.
He said his client is very upset about what allegedly happened to her.
“I understand Mr. Morse heads a very large firm,” Fieger said. “I understand that he is very well known for his charitable work. However, this type of activity cannot be tolerated.”