ELLSWORTH, Maine — A former teacher from Mount Desert Island was found guilty Wednesday of three charges connected to a series of sexual assaults he allegedly committed on an underage girl who previously had been a student in his classroom.
Benjamin H. Hodgdon II, 48, was acquitted of five charges stemming from the same incidents, which are alleged to have occurred in 1999 and 2000. According to police, Hodgdon sexually assaulted the girl between “30 and 40 times” when she was in eighth grade at Tremont Consolidated School.
The victim, who is now 30 years old, had been a sixth-grader in Hodgdon’s classroom two years before the assaults and was coached by Hodgdon on the school’s cross-country team at the time of the assaults, according to court documents.
The Bangor Daily News is not naming the woman because she is the victim of sexual assault.
Hodgdon was facing four counts of gross sexual assault, and two counts each of unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor. He was found guilty Wednesday of one count each of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, and sexual abuse of a minor, but was acquitted of the rest.
The jury came to a verdict early Wednesday evening after deliberating for about five hours. Closing arguments in the trial, which began Monday in Hancock County Superior Court, were presented to the jury Wednesday morning.
Hodgdon’s defense attorney, David Van Dyke, declined to comment to reporters after the verdict was announced.
The prosecutor in the case, Hancock County Deputy District Attorney Norman “Toff” Toffolon, earlier in the day directed all media inquiries about the matter to District Attorney Matthew Foster.
Foster said Wednesday evening that he and Toffolon were “very pleased” with the verdict.
“We’re very happy for [the victim] and her family,” Foster said. “I think this is an excellent outcome.”
Foster added that, given the split verdict, he expects there will be an appeal filed in the case.
“I would be surprised if there wasn’t an appeal,” the prosecutor said.
Hodgdon remains free on bail pending his sentencing, a date for which has not yet been set.
In his closing argument to the jury Wednesday morning, Van Dyke likened the accusations against his client to the infamous Salem witch trials. He said the victim’s accusations are inaccurate and that his client could not have committed the assaults when he is accused of committing them.
“There’s simply no evidence supporting conviction,” Van Dyke told the jury, which was composed of 10 men and two women.
Toffolon told the jury that there is “ample” evidence against Hodgdon.
“This was a 12-year-old child,” Toffolon told the jury. “This man was saying, ‘You’re special, I love you.’”
The victim at the time may have appeared to be a willing participant in Hodgdon’s alleged behavior, he said, but that does not make it legal.
“It’s not justification for criminal sex abuse of a child,” Toffolon said.
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.