A former Bangor teacher will serve nine months in jail after pleading guilty Wednesday at the Penobscot County Judicial Center to 13 counts of secretly filming under women’s clothing.
Benjamin Emmott, 30, will also register as a sex offender for 10 years. The jail sentence is harsher than the six-month sentence recommended in a plea deal with prosecutors, which Justice Ann Murray rejected based on the magnitude and scope of Emmott’s crimes. He faced up to 364 days in jail.
“This was a long term course of criminal conduct. There were multiple victims,” Murray said, who were violated “in schools, and stores, and so forth.”
The counts for which Emmott was convicted represented only a fraction of the women — and in some cases, possibly teenagers — he allegedly filmed in secret in schools, businesses, a gym and in bathrooms across Greater Bangor over the last decade, according to Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Russell’s court testimony.
Police were not able to charge Emmott for most of the hundreds, if not thousands, of images Russell referred to in court because the statute of limitations on the crimes, which is three years, had run out. In some cases, police were not able to identify the victims in the videos, she said.
Emmott used his camera phone to photograph and record women without their knowledge, often placing the camera in low places to capture images as they stepped over the phone while wearing skirts or dresses, according to Russell.
The activity stretched as far back as 2008, according to one time-stamped video, Russell said.
It was the discovery of a lost thumb drive full of lewd photos that tipped Bangor police off to Emmott’s activity a few months ago, she said.
In February, a “concerned” person contacted police after he bought a used car from Emmott, Russell said. That person’s teenager found a thumb drive inside the car, and it contained numerous graphic images.
At the time, Emmott was a special education teacher at the Bangor Regional Program.
He resigned from that job during school vacation week in February, after police notified school officials of their investigation into his alleged criminal activity. Bangor Superintendent of Schools Betsy Webb and police have said there’s no evidence to suggest Emmott ever filmed students there.
Detectives on March 9 initially charged Emmott with seven counts of privacy violations. More charges were added as the investigation continued. His lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf to 10 misdemeanor charges on March 22, before more counts were tacked on.
Russell said Emmott’s victims were often friends, colleagues and customers at places where he worked. On many occasions, he digitally altered the videos to enhance the images, she said.
Sometimes, Emmott, who is from Winterport and has no previous criminal history, recorded people over their clothes, but would “zero in” on their body parts, Russell said.
Most of the victims appeared to be over the age of 18, but some could have been younger, she said. Emmott once allegedly filmed a middle school baseball practice when he was a coach, although Russell did not describe the video in detail.
Emmott’s lawyer, Jonathan Goodman of Portland, declined to comment on the allegations against his client beyond the 13 crimes for which he’d been charged.
“What he did is really, really terrible,” Goodman told the courtroom. Emmott “ceased the behavior before he was caught,” he added, and hadn’t recorded anyone since 2016. He is attending counseling, he said. Outside the courtroom, Goodman said his client never shared the photos with anyone.
In court Wednesday, Emmott told the courtroom he “apologize[s] deeply” to everyone he harmed and disappointed.
Two victims attended the hearing and prior to the sentencing described the horror of learning their one-time friend and co-worker had violated them.
“I had many days when I could not be alone at all because all I could think of was the images and photos,” said one victim, who added Emmott filmed her while they worked as ed techs in the same classroom.
“I couldn’t believe someone I had worked so closely with could take advantage of me,” she said. Since learning that she had been filmed, she has suffered from anxiety that caused her to miss days of work, she said.
Emmott fixed his gaze on them while they spoke, rarely glancing away from their testimony except to wipe away tears.
His jail sentence starts on June 25. Murray granted a stay on his sentence so he can be present for the birth of his daughter later this month.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual assault, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.