The ex-Gilman School teacher facing charges that he sexually abused a student was arrested by the FBI early Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with possessing sexually explicit material of children.
Federal prosecutors said they had been inspecting Christopher Bendann’s electronic devices for only about a week. But in that time they’d already found images dating to 2017 and obtained an indictment. Video files were recovered from an iCloud account associated with Bendann’s personal email address “depicting the Minor Victim’s genitals,” while another video file depicted “the defendant touching Minor Victim’s genitals,” according to the indictment.
Bendann, 39, spoke out forcefully this month, saying he was innocent and that Gilman and Baltimore County authorities were defaming him. The former teacher, who worked at the private, all-boys school from 2007 until this year, has been free on home detention awaiting a December trial for charges in Baltimore County of sexual abuse of a minor, sexual solicitation of a minor, rape and related offenses of a former student starting in the eighth or ninth grade.
Steve Silverman, an attorney for the alleged victim in the county case, said the federal indictment reflects evidence found on Bendann’s electronic devices that corroborates his client’s claims.
Bendann “called the victim a liar. He said he’s never taken a photograph or a video of anyone inappropriate,” Silverman said Friday. “Not only did he do that, he tried to destroy that evidence and took comfort in his destruction of evidence, and the government is only beginning to recover all of the photographic evidence that he destroyed.”
Bendann will spend at least the weekend in federal detention, with a detention hearing scheduled Monday. His defense attorney, Kobie Flowers, argued Friday that he should be released, because he had performed well on release for the state charges. Flowers accused the government of “abuse of power” for how it went about charging Bendann.
The federal indictment brings five counts, each with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years.
At the time Bendann was arrested on the state charges, in February, Silverman said the allegations were the “tip of the iceberg.”
But Flowers said this month that the lack of additional charges or allegations since February buttressed his claim that the victim was making a false accusation and hoped for a payday from Gilman. Bendann said then that law enforcement hadn’t — and wouldn’t — find explicit or inappropriate images of children.
“We now stand some five, six months later, and there is only one complaining witness. ... And that complaining witness has several reasons to be less than honest. We expect to show that in court,” Flowers said at the time.
Flowers brushed off the new claims in the federal indictment, saying authorities had merely “federalized” the pending case and noting that Bendann still does not face claims from any additional alleged victims.
Flowers criticized authorities for arresting Bendann in a 5 a.m. raid at his home in which agents in tactical gear “trained lasers on him and his father” and for detaining him on a Friday because it would lead him to be held over the weekend. He expressed confidence that Bendann would be released next week.
Silverman maintained his belief that evidence of other victims would emerge as the searches of the devices continue.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen McGuinn said the government’s “hands have been tied for the past six months,” preventing it from inspecting nearly 20 devices seized in February.
Silverman said Bendann “breached the trust of the entire community” and “destroyed families.” He said the defense’s tack has been to harass and intimidate the alleged victim in hopes of preventing others from coming forward.
“My personal view is that he is a monster,” he said.