WEST BATH, Maine — The founder of a midcoast youth theater group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to 12 counts of child sexual assault and related charges that took place in his Topsham home, during theater rehearsal and at St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick.
Under terms of a plea agreement with district attorneys in Sagadahoc and Cumberland counties, Henry A. Eichman, 57, of Topsham entered an Alford plea to the charges. In exchange, eight other charges were dismissed. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but accepts that prosecutors have enough evidence for conviction.
Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings sentenced Eichman to 10 years in prison for each of nine felonies, to be served concurrently, and 364 days in prison for three misdemeanor counts, all to be served concurrently.
Eichman will then serve four years probation, and will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Eichman, who in 2003 founded the Midcoast Youth Theater and later taught drama at St. John’s Catholic School, was arrested in September 2016 and charged with two counts of Class B unlawful sexual contact, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor under 12 and two counts of invasion of privacy for incidents that members of the youth theater told police took place during sleepovers at Eichman’s Topsham home and during theater rehearsals between 2013 and 2016.
He was indicted four months later on those charges as well as visual sexual aggression against a child under 12, which alleges visual surveillance, with or without recording devices, of children’s genitals.
A year later, Eichman was charged with unlawful sexual contact and sexual exploitation of children after students at St. John’s Catholic School reported he touched them inappropriately between 2008 and 2016, when he was a part-time drama teacher and substitute teacher at the school.
Some of the children reported the abuse went on from second grade to sixth grade, Sagadahoc County District Attorney Jonathan Liberman told the court Wednesday.
A parent of one of the children told Billings on Wednesday that Eichman “took animalistic opportunity” when assaulting the children.
“She is not the same little girl,” the parent said. “We watched her change before our eyes. She stopped laughing, she stopped singing, she lost any of her coping skills — and this is a strong girl.”
The parent said their child is now afraid of strangers and of adult men, and struggles with severe anxiety.
In sentencing Eichman, Billings noted the “major impact on the community” that Eichman’s actions had.
Following the sentencing, Liberman thanked both district attorneys’ offices and praised Brunswick and Topsham detectives for “thoroughly investigating the case and serving their communities very well.”
He commended the victims and their families, and said, “Because everyone worked together so well and took this so seriously, [Eichman] will be behind bars for 10 years and on probation with very strict conditions when he gets out.”
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