A former middle school teacher at the Gilman School who’s accused of sexually abusing a teen will be released from the Baltimore County Detention Center and placed on pretrial supervision, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Jan Marshall Alexander granted that request from Chris Bendann’s attorney, Kobie Flowers, who argued that there were less restrictive ways to protect the community and ensure that his client appeared for trial on charges including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and perverted practice. Bendann is accused of sexually abusing a former student between 2016-2019 and maintains his innocence.
“Mr. Bendann is not a danger,” Flowers told Alexander. “The evidence is very, very slim,” he later added.
Bendann, 38, of Towson, worked as a teacher at the Gilman School, a private, independent all-boys school in Roland Park in Baltimore, from 2007-2023, according to his LinkedIn page. He was fired earlier this year, and Baltimore County Police arrested him on Feb. 3.
Flowers said his client has no criminal record, noting that 13 family members and friends showed up to support him in court and adding that eight people submitted character letters on his behalf. Bendann, he said, was being held in protective custody for 23 hours per day — and “his life has also been threatened because of the nature of these charges.”
In 1984, Bendann’s father adopted him from South Korea. Bendann graduated from the Gilman School in 2003 and earned his bachelor’s degree in history and the classics at Skidmore College in 2008, Flowers said.
Besides teaching social studies and geography, Flowers said, his client held a variety of other positions at the school throughout his tenure, such as admissions officer. Bendann, he said, was “so trusted” that he housesat and babysat for many parents.
“We have nothing but a ‘he said, he said,’” Flowers said.
But Assistant State’s Attorney John Magee asked the judge to continue holding Bendann without bail, describing him as a danger to the community — in particular, to adolescent boys.
The Gilman School, he said, counseled Bendann in the past for “crossing inappropriate boundaries.” Students and teachers raised concerns about him, Magee said.
Bendann would buy alcohol and marijuana for students in exchange for them running around naked in parks in Baltimore County or sending pictures, Magee said. He’d described that practice in at least one instance as a “tradition,” the prosecutor said, stating that “older kids have done this in the past.”
Magee recounted many of the allegations in the case, adding that the former student who reported that Bendann sexually abused him is scared and devastated.
The federal government has numerous devices that law enforcement took from Bendann’s home, Magee said. Police, he said, also found framed pictures and photo albums of him with students.
“This is an extraordinarily serious case,” Magee said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
In an email, Detective Trae Corbin, a spokesperson for the Baltimore County Police Department, said the case is “still open and under investigation.”
Brooke Blumberg, a spokesperson for the Gilman School, said in a statement: “We continue to do all that we can to support law enforcement and to stand with anyone who is a survivor.
“Our commitment to helping the Gilman community heal and move forward remains steadfast,” Blumberg said. “As this is a legal matter, we have no additional comment.”
Brian Thompson, an attorney who’s representing the man who reported that Bendann sexually abused him, said outside the courtroom that “we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision, and we’re just going to let the process play out.” Bendann is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on March 3, according to online court records.
“We believe that justice will ultimately be served in this case,” Thompson said.