A Portland school employee charged with two felony sex crimes appeared in federal court for the first time Tuesday, but he has not yet entered a plea to the charges against him.

Benjamin Conroy, 32, will remain in custody for now. He participated in his hearing by Zoom from the Cumberland County Jail.

Conroy is facing charges in both state and federal courts. He is accused of sexually exploiting a child in the classroom where he worked as an education technician for students on the autism spectrum at Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

David Beneman, the federal public defender who is appointed to represent Conroy, said in an email that he does not yet have access to the evidence in the case and does not have any response to the charges at this time.

The case now will go to a federal grand jury for indictment. The hearing did not reveal any new information about the case, or any details of allegations of abuse of two other students briefly mentioned in an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of Maine in Portland. It is not yet clear if Conroy will face additional charges related to other children.

The affidavit states Conroy has worked with children on the autism spectrum for more than eight years, both in homes and in schools.


Portland Public Schools hired Conroy this summer. The district said he previously worked for Casa, which provides behavioral health support to schools, and before that for Regional School Unit 22 in Hampden and Regional School Unit 2 in Hallowell. He is on administrative leave from the district, and the Maine Department of Education has said his state education technician credential has been revoked.

Superintendent Xavier Botana promised an internal investigation when the Portland Police Department first announced the arrest in October.

“I want you to know that what we understand has occurred is contrary to our top priority of ensuring all of our students are in a safe and supportive environment at all times when they are in our care,” Botana said at the time.

Police arrested Conroy on Oct. 13. He was charged in state court with sexual exploitation of a minor, dissemination of sexually explicit material and possession of sexually explicit material. Last week, he was charged in federal court as well, this time with sexual exploitation of a minor and transportation of child pornography.

The affidavit filed in federal court details the allegations against him. It says Portland police received a citizen’s report on Oct. 5 about alleged unlawful sexual acts revealed in photos on the Grindr dating app. The report included photos of an adult man exposing his genitals in public and others that showed what appeared to be the arm of a young child performing a sexual act.

On Oct. 8, officers responded to a call about a man on the Western Promenade who had shoved his genitals in a woman’s face and pushed her. Police identified him as Conroy and issued a summons for unlawful sexual conduct, and the officer investigating the report from Grindr also questioned him about the photos. The affidavit says Conroy admitted he was the man in some of the pictures, but denied any knowledge of the photos of the child.

The officer learned that Conroy worked at Ocean Avenue and, with the help of school officials, spoke with a parent on Oct. 12 who said she was sure the photo depicted her daughter’s hand and clothes. Police arrested him the next day on the state charges.

The affidavit also says the Department of Health and Human Services recently received new allegations of abuse regarding two children who were previously students of Conroy’s when he was working at another elementary school in Maine. That document does not identify the school or provide any further details, and officials have not released any additional information.

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