If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
The Portland education technician accused of sexually abusing a child with autism whom he worked with and trading child pornography online made his first appearance remotely Tuesday in U.S District Court in Portland.
Benjamin Conroy, 32, is charged with sexual exploitation of a minor and transportation of child pornography.
He appeared remotely from the Cumberland County Jail, where he has been unable to post $50,000 cash bail. Conroy agreed Tuesday to be held without bail on the federal charge but may ask for a bail hearing at a later date.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John H. Rich III did not ask Conroy to enter pleas to the charges as he has not yet been indicted by a federal grand jury.
Conroy is also facing state-level charges in Cumberland County of sexually exploiting a child, a Class A crime; dissemination of sexually explicit material, a Class B crime; possession of sexually explicit material, a Class C crime; and unlawful sexual contact, a Class D crime.
Conroy was fired last week after the Maine Department of Education revoked his ed tech license, Tess Nacelewicz, spokesperson for Portland Public Schools, said Tuesday.
The affidavit filed in federal court details a series of photos and text messages sent over an online dating application that allegedly show at least six children whom Conroy propositioned. School officials and parents were able to identify many of the victims, according to the affidavit.
The youngest victim appears to be a 6-year-old female student with autism who is nonverbal. Conroy was assigned to work with her in September.
The investigation by Portland police began on Oct. 5 after a dating app user reported receiving a number of disturbing images that appeared to show children being sexually abused. A total of 13 images were shared. Some showed a man in various stages of undress in different locations, including outdoors.
Other images do not show the man, and instead depict various school aged-children, including middle school girls. In the final few images, a child’s hand is shown grasping the man’s genitals. In text messages reviewed by the police, Conroy allegedly described sexual acts between himself and the child.
Conroy was arrested on Oct. 8 after he allegedly exposed himself and touched his genitals to an adult woman while she was seated on a park bench in the Western Promenade area of Portland. Bystanders chased him down and held him until officers arrived.
Videos found on Conroy’s cell phone appeared to be taken from the floor or close to it, attempting to look up the skirts or shorts of students and teachers, the affidavit said. All appeared to be filmed in a Portland classroom.
Additional allegations of abuse of two juveniles who were students of Conroy’s in another Maine elementary school were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the affidavit. It’s unclear whether Conroy may face additional charges from those allegations.
From fall 2014 to August 2016, Conroy worked as an ed tech for Regional School Unit 22 at the Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport. The Smith School serves pre-kindergarten through 4th grades.
Information about whether the additional allegation involved a student at that school has not been made public.
He worked at Hall-Dale Elementary School in Hallowell after leaving RSU 22.
If convicted in federal court, Conroy faces between 15 and 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the most serious charge of exploitation of a minor.
He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 if convicted of the similar charges in state court.