MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former Long Island music teacher has pleaded guilty to sex abuse and endangering children.
John E. Benstock, 49, will get six years of probation, surrender his teaching license and register as a level one sex offender for 20 years, after pleading guilty to four counts of sex abuse and 10 counts of endangerment.
As CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reported Monday, Benstock said nothing and offered no apologies as he walked out of court hand in hand with his wife.
The Locust Valley teacher had been indicted in July 2011 on 31 counts for inappropriate contact with 14 students. He was originally arrested in May 2011 after authorities said he had “inappropriate contact” with a Bayville Intermediate School student, who was under 10 years old.
Benstock admitted Monday that on numerous occasions between 2000 and 2011, he had female students — some under 11 years old — touch his genitals with a stringed instrument bow.
The sexual contact occurred both in school and during private music lessons Benstock conducted with some of the students in their homes, Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Silvia Finkelstein said.
Finkelstein said the parents or guardians of each of the 14 children signed off on the plea deal.
“He stood up in open court, he admitted what he did and this plea protects not only the students of the Locust Valley School District, potential victims of the future, but most of all it protects the children of Nassau County,” Finkelstein said. “The parents were OK with no jail time.”
The prosecutor noted Benstock was never accused of touching the children in a sexual manner.
“He allowed the children to touch him with the bow,” she said.
Finkelstein said by requiring Benstock go on the sex offender registry for 20 years, the state will be able to keep tabs on him. That would not have been a guarantee if he had served prison time, she noted.
“In this case, being on probation with sex offender conditions is extremely strict. It is restrictive in terms of where he lives, his movement, his employment,” Finkelstein told Hennessey.
Many parents did not want to comment on the case, but one father said he understood the no jail rationale.
“If you can keep an eye on him, I think that’s the safest bet. Keep him away from the schools and where kids are because these guys tend to go towards those areas,” parent Charles Livoti told Hennessey.
Defense attorney Chad Seigel said his client opted for the guilty plea because “he gets to move on with his life. For years he was a very devoted teacher. That chapter is now over.”
Locust Valley Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anna F. Hunderfund said in a statement that Benstock is no longer an employee and has not taught students since May 2011.
“The health and safety of our students and staff will continue to be our first priority,” Hunderfund said.
Benstock is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3.
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