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by Fern Shen5:51 pmFeb 6, 20230

Lawyer alleges that Gilman teacher threatened his victim after being fired

The attorney for Chris Bendann, charged with sexually abusing a student, asks for home confinement. But a judge refuses, calling him “a public safety threat.”

Above: In Baltimore County District Court, a judge refuses to set bail for former Gilman School teacher Christopher Bendann. (Fern Shen)

The attorney for the alleged victim of a Gilman School teacher charged with sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree rape called the charges “the tip of the iceberg” and made a number of stunning allegations at a bail hearing today.

Between the time Christopher Kenji Bendann was fired on January 20 and the time he was arrested at his Towson home last week, attorney Steven D. Silverman said, “Mr. Bendann reached out to my client,” warning him not to talk and threatening “bodily harm” to him and people close to him.

Outside the courthouse, Silverman predicted “scores of victims” would come forward.

Addressing District Court Judge Karen Pilarski, assistant state’s attorney Natalie Scurto said “other victims” have come forward to speak with law enforcement.

Calling Bendann “a serious threat to public safety,” Scurto asked the judge to order him to continue to be held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Objecting strongly to the remarks by Silverman, whose client has not been publicly identified, Bendann’s attorney Kobie Flowers warned the judge not to listen to “allegations, innuendo and rumor.” He advised the judge to stay “within the four corners” of the charging document.

Judge Pilarski agreed, saying the allegations that Bendann “systematically and horrifically abused one child who was in his care and custody” between 2016 and 2019 were disturbing enough.

“The alarming and serious abuse of children cannot go unknown,” Pilarski said, finding Bendann “a public safety threat” and ordering him to continue to be held without bail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 3 in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Suicide Watch

Bendann, appearing today on video handcuffed and in an orange jumpsuit, did not speak except to tell Pilarski he had watched a video outlining his rights and understood them.

Flowers asked Pilarski to set bail with conditions, including allowing the 38-year-old former middle school teacher to be confined in his father’s Baltimore home on 24/7 electronic monitoring.

Flowers pointed to the audience in the packed courtroom and asked Bendann’s 11 supporters – including his father, an uncle, a current Gilman employee and a former employee – to stand.

An older couple in the back of the room, holding hands and appearing near tears, remained seated.

Photo released by Baltimore County Police of former Gilman School teacher, Christopher Bendann.

Photo released by Baltimore County Police of former Gilman School teacher, Christopher Bendann.

A 2003 Gilman graduate who taught at the school for more than 15 years and has no previous criminal record, Bendann is “on suicide watch,” Flowers told the judge.

“He is not doing okay,” said his attorney, who described how “a SWAT team” on Friday ordered Bendann to step outside his Rodgers Forge home “wearing just his boxers.”

Flowers went on to speak about America’s “50-year history of mass incarceration” and the thousands of people wrongly accused and convicted of crimes, concluding: “Mr. Bendann is one of those people.”

Pilarski was not impressed.

“I see you’re putting on trial the entire criminal justice system,” she observed drily at one point.

Tradition of Housesitting Teachers?

Flowers had more success with Pilarski when he brought up what he said was Gilman’s policy of allowing teachers to house sit students’ homes when the families were away.

According to the charging document, the former student told police that the alleged sex acts happened at “several different houses” where Bendann was housesitting.

Silverman described the practice as sideline work for Gilman teachers, well known to officials at the prestigious all-boys private school.

“It was Uber before Uber,” he remarked.

“It’s not just one person” to be kept safe, “it’s the entire community that trusted Mr. Bendann,” Pilarski said at one point. “There was this housesitting or babysitting, I’m now told?”

Gilman allowed Bendann to house sit at students’ homes for extra money, according to attorney Steve Silverman.

Gilman officials, asked later by The Brew if the housesitting practice existed and if it continues today, had no answer.

“We are focused on supporting our students and families, taking the right steps to aid those who were impacted,” spokeswoman Brooke S. Blumberg said. “Working now and in the immediate future to identify ways to strengthen our already strong focus on Gilman values and the Gilman community.”

“You owe me”

According to the charging documents made publicly available Friday, the Baltimore County Department of Social Services told police on January 21 about Bendann’s “suspicious relationship” with current and former Gilman students.

The social worker told police Bendann was fired after “confidential reports that Bendann provided alcohol and then transported children to the St. Paul’s School and Meadowood Regional Park and requested the children remove their clothing and run around the location naked in front of him.”

The incidents reportedly took place in July and August of 2021. During the investigation, the report said, “several other students and Gilman alumni were identified as having knowledge of this type of behavior” with Bendann.

“In exchange for the safe ride, the defendant would make them run around naked”  – Police charging document.

On January 30, an interview was conducted with a Gilman alumni described as “an adult survivor victim, born in 2001.”

The victim said when he was in 8th or 9th grade – “approximately September 2016 – June 2018” – Bendann would give him and his friends rides home because they didn’t want to ask their parents.

“In exchange for the safe ride, the defendant would make them run around naked at Meadowood Park and the hill at St. Paul’s,” the report said.

The victim specifically recalled a time when Bendann drove a long way to pick him up from a party.

“Bendann drove the victim to get McDonald’s and then said that because it was such a long drive, the victim ‘owed him,’” the report said.

The victim, who was 15 or 16 at the time, told police that Bendann then “forced him to get naked.”

“Then things got worse”

After a year, the victim said, the abuse escalated, with Bendann allegedly demanding nude pictures of the victim, “making deals” with him on SnapChat and threatening to expose him if he didn’t produce the photographs.

The victim said he tried to block Bendann, who would allegedly respond by harassing the victim’s friends and threatening to release the nude photos.

The behavior allegedly escalated to demands that the victim touch himself and masturbate, while the two were in Bendann’s car.

“The victim said Bendann would get angry if he didn’t want to do this,” the report said.

The victim described other times when Bendann would “touch the victim on his penis with his mouth and his hands.”

“The victim said Bendann would get angry if he didn’t want to do this,” the report said.

The victim also shared that the incidents would happen “at several different houses where defendant Bendann was housesitting,” as well as at Bendann’s current and former residences.

The victim also said there were times when Bendann wanted him to get naked in the shower in those homes “and would also get naked in the shower and touch the victim on his penis.”

Bendann faces charges of felony sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree rape and third-degree sex offense as well as misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree sexual contact and perverted practice.

– To reach a reporter fern.shen@baltimorebrew.com

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