A former middle school teacher at the Gilman School will continue to be held without bail as he awaits trial on charges including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and perverted practice, a Baltimore County judge ruled on Monday.
District Judge Karen A. Pilarski made that determination at a bail review hearing for Chris Bendann, 38, of Towson, who taught social studies at the private, independent all-boys school in Roland Park in Baltimore from 2007-2023, according to his LinkedIn page. He’s accused of sexually abusing a teen between 2016-2019.
“The alarming and systemic abuse of children cannot go unknown,” Pilarski said. “I find him to be a public safety threat.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Natalie Scurto recounted many of the allegations in the statement of charges against Bendann, adding that “a couple of other victims” have come forward and asked to speak with law enforcement.
“The state believes the defendant is a serious risk to public safety,” said Scurto, who asked the judge to order Bendann to continue to be held without bail.
Next, Steven Silverman, an attorney who represents the man who reported that Bendann sexually abused him, said the former teacher has threatened his client and people close to him.
Outside the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore County in Towson, Silverman 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.”
Meanwhile, Kobie Flowers, Bendann’s attorney, asked the judge to release his client on home detention with 24/7 electronic monitoring and suggested a series of other potential bail conditions, including no contact with minors.
Flowers disputed that his client poses a danger to the community and implored the judge to base her decision about bail on the case before the court — not “allegations, innuendo and rumor.”
Eleven people — including family members, neighbors and one current and former employee of the Gilman School — sat in support of Bendann in the gallery of the courtroom. At one point, Flowers asked them to stand.
A SWAT team, he said, ordered his client out of his home in only boxers and later arrested him. Bendann has been traumatized and is “not doing OK” in the Baltimore County Detention Center, Flowers said.
Later, Flowers stated that pretrial detention has contributed to mass incarceration in the United States and brought up how thousands of people have been wrongfully convicted in the last several decades. Bendann, he said, has been wrongfully accused and will be hampered in mounting a defense against the charges if he remains imprisoned.
“Mr. Bendann, until these charges were brought against him, had a stellar reputation,” Flowers said. “And that has been forever destroyed.”
In a letter to the school community dated Jan. 20, Gilman School Head of School Henry P.A. Smyth wrote that it fired Bendann after recently learning of several reports of “inappropriate, out-of-school conduct with students.”
Smyth said the school was not aware of any allegations of “inappropriate physical conduct” but reported the matter to Child Protective Services. He then sent out another letter out to the school community after Baltimore County Police on Friday executed a search and seizure warrant at Bendann’s home in Rodgers Forge and arrested him.
“The behavior described within the report is abusive and coercive, and it paints a picture of a grave violation of trust,” Smyth said. “It is heart-wrenching to read these details.”
The Baltimore County Department of Social Services alerted law enforcement that the Gilman School had fired Bendann after learning of allegations involving “inappropriate and suspicious relationships with current and former students.”
Police stated that the grounds for his termination were reports that Bendann gave alcohol to children, drove them to the St. Paul’s Schools and Meadowood Regional Park, and requested that they take off their clothes and run around naked in front of him in 2021.
Law enforcement found several other students and alumni, police reported, who had “knowledge of this type of behavior.”
Next, a former student at the Gilman School disclosed in a forensic interview at the Baltimore County Child Advocacy Center that Bendann started sexually abusing him in eight or ninth grade, police reported.
Bendann, he said, would provide alcohol and give him and his friends rides after they’d been drinking. That’s in addition to asking for nude pictures, making the student expose himself and touching his genitals, police reported.
The Gilman School was founded in 1897 and educates about 1,000 students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. It has long been considered one of the best private schools in the region.
Bendann is set to appear for a preliminary hearing on March 3, according to online court records.
- Jan. 20, 2023: The Gilman School fires Chris Bendann, a middle school teacher, after recently learning of “inappropriate, out-of-school conduct with students,” and writes in a letter to the school community that it reported the matter to Child Protective Services.
- Jan. 21, 2023: The Baltimore County Police Department receives a police report related to a “suspicious condition for follow-up investigation.” The Baltimore County Department of Social Services alerted law enforcement that the school had fired a teacher after learning of allegations involving “inappropriate and suspicious relationships with current and former students.”
- Jan. 30, 2023: A forensic interview is conducted with a former student at the Gilman School who reported that Bendann sexually abused him between 2016-2019.
- Feb. 3, 2023: Police execute a search and seizure warrant at Bendann’s home in the Rodgers Forge community in Towson and arrest him on charges including sexual abuse of a minor, rape and perverted practice.
- Feb. 6, 2023: Baltimore County District Judge Karen A. Pilarski ordered Bendann to continue to be held without bail.