Defense lawyers for a former middle school teacher at Gilman School who is charged with sexually abusing a student asked a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge Tuesday afternoon to allow them to subpoena Gilman School, Calvert School and several current and former Gilman students for records and communications.
Kobie Flowers, a lawyer for Chris Bendann, 38, of Towson, argued at the motion hearing that the defense team expects those documents have information relevant to the case. Flowers said some information could be used as evidence to discredit witnesses or exonerate Bendann.
Assistant State’s Attorney John Magee opposed the motion Tuesday, calling it a “fishing expedition” and arguing the defense had not offered any description of what relevant information might be found in the documents.
Steven Silverman, an attorney who represents the man who reported that Bendann sexually abused him, added outside the hearing that the subpoenas were “meant to harass” the alleged victim and to give other potential victims second thoughts about coming forward.
The judge did not rule on the motion Tuesday.
Bendann worked at Gilman School, a private, all-boys school in Baltimore’s Roland Park neighborhood, from 2007 to 2023, where he taught social studies and held other roles, such as an admissions officer. He was indicted on Feb. 27 by a Baltimore County grand jury on 16 counts, including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and related offenses.
He was arrested on Feb. 3 after a former student told investigators that Bendann started sexually abusing him in the eighth or ninth grade, Baltimore County Police said. Court records say Bendann was 32 at the time and the alleged victim was 15.
Bendann’s team requested any internal affairs complaints, among other documents, for law enforcement officers involved in the case who are expected to testify at trial. Flowers said they will be looking for any time an officer may have showed they weren’t truthful or that they were biased.
Defense lawyers also want Bendann’s personnel records from the Gilman School, as well as the personnel records of Head of School Henry Smythe, Assistant Head of School Peter Kwiterovich, and two other school officials. They also want any communications between employees about Bendann and records pertaining to a 2020-2021 investigation and report into sexual abuse at Gilman. According to court records, defense lawyers also want “all records pertaining to” 10 current or former Gilman students, including the alleged victim.
Magee said Tuesday that five current students and five former students of Gilman had been interviewed for the case.
The defense team’s requested documents and communications from The Calvert School, a private elementary and middle school in Baltimore, are redacted in court records.
Flowers said the team wants to learn “who said what” about Bendann’s relationships with the complaining witness, as well as information about Gilman’s policies on babysitting, pet sitting and housesitting. Flowers maintained he could not disclose other reasons for requesting documents in public court, and would have to discuss the requests with the court privately.
But Magee said he did not understand why the defense would need information from Gilman School, given that none of the incidents occurred at the school, and said it was “wholly inappropriate” to ask for school records for students and employees, as well as for personal communications. He argued that the defense had not provided any information about what relevant information they would find in the documents.
Magee also argued at the Tuesday hearing that the trial, currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 16, should be postponed. Magee said federal authorities have not yet completed a forensic examination of electronic devices seized from Bendann’s house. There are allegations of photos and videos “being taken” and shared back and forth between Bendann and the alleged victim, he said. Flowers opposed the request, and maintained the trial should go on as scheduled.
According to charging documents, Bendann provided alcohol to children and drove them to the St. Paul’s Schools and the nearby Meadowood Regional Park in Timonium, and then “requested the children remove their clothing and run around the location naked in front of him.”
Eventually, court documents say, Bendann began seeking nude photos from the victim and threatened to circulate the images when the the former student tried to block Bendann from contacting him. Bendann would also become angry if the former student refused to engage in nudity and sexual acts, the documents said.
At other times, Bendann would touch the student in sexually inappropriate ways, according to the charging documents.
In a letter dated Jan. 20, Smyth wrote that Bendann was terminated after the school learned of several reports concerning “inappropriate, out-of-school conduct with students.” At the time, Smyth wrote that there were no allegations of “inappropriate physical conduct.”
After Bendann was arrested, Smyth sent out a second letter, stating that “behavior described within the report is abusive and coercive, and it paints a picture of a grave violation of trust.”
Bendann was released from the Baltimore County Detention Center in February and placed on pretrial supervision.