Prosecutor: Others have alleged Gilman teacher accused of abuse acted inappropriately

Published 5/3/2023 5:12 p.m. EDT, Updated 5/3/2023 5:41 p.m. EDT

The entrance sign outside the front Gilman School as seen on Thursday, March 16.

Police have interviewed multiple other people who alleged “at a minimum, inappropriate conduct” against a former middle school teacher at Gilman School who is accused of sexually abusing a student, Assistant State’s Attorney John Magee said Wednesday.

Magee did not provide the number of people interviewed by authorities during a motions hearing at the Baltimore County Circuit Court, and declined to comment after the proceeding.

The former teacher, 38-year-old Chris Bendann of Towson, was indicted on Feb. 27 by a Baltimore County grand jury on 16 counts, including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and related offenses. No additional charges have been filed since then, according to online court records.

Bendann’s lawyers requested the hearing and argued the name of the victim in the indictment should not be redacted, in part because prosecutors had not provided a compelling reason to do so.

Defense attorney Michael Abrams said the reasons prosecutors gave for sealing the name are still disputed allegations and haven’t been proven. He also argued that the public has a right to review court documents without any secrecy, especially because public interest is high in this case.

Magee said the victim may be further traumatized if his name comes out, and there are concerns about the victim being rejected or ostracized.

A judge on Wednesday upheld the previous order redacting the name, arguing that, historically, there has been stigma associated with this type of allegation.

Bendann worked at Gilman School, a private, all-boys school in Baltimore’s Roland Park neighborhood, from 2007 to 2023. He taught social studies and held other roles, such as an admissions officer.

He was arrested on Feb. 3 after a former student said during a forensic interview with 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 provided alcohol to children and drove them to the St. Paul’s Schools and the nearby Meadowood Regional Park in Timonium, according to the charging documents, 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. He also would 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, the head of the school, Henry P.A. 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.”

Earlier this year, Steven Silverman, an attorney who represents the man who reported that Bendann sexually abused him, said he believes that investigators will identify “scores of victims,” and predicted that the case will cause a “chilling on the community.”

“From what I know, this is one of the most disturbing cases I’ve ever seen in my career,” Silverman said. “And I’ve been around the block.”

Bendann was released from the Baltimore County Detention Center in February and placed on pretrial supervision.

Another motion’s hearing is scheduled for July 18, and the trial is scheduled to begin August 16, according to online court records.

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