ELKTON — A man who allegedly sexually abused a girl during a two-year period when he was a teenager living with her and others in a Cecil County foster care home received a seven-year prison term on Friday, after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree rape.
The defendant, Benjamin Alan Bauer, now 21, also had been molested as a child, at age 9, during what his court-appointed lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Nicholas Cooksley, described as a “horrible” upbringing. That molestation occurred before Bauer entered the foster care program.
“You were the victim, and you became the victimizer,” Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. summarized from the bench. “There is no denying that things were rough for you, but the victim wound up in the same system as you did.”
Moments earlier, while addressing the judge from the defense table, Bauer expressed a disbelief that he had molested the girl – given his own background.
“I know what it is like to be sexually abused, and I wouldn’t want to put that on someone else,” remarked Bauer, clad in a Cecil County Detention Center inmate uniform.
Davis imposed a 15-year sentence on Bauer and then suspended eight years of the penalty, leaving Bauer with a seven-year term that he will serve in a Maryland Department of Corrections prison. The judge gave Bauer credit for nearly 13 months that he already served as a pre-trial inmate in the county jail after his March 2020 arrest.
Bauer had pleaded guilty to that second-degree rape charge in February, as part of a plea deal in which prosecutors dismissed 34 related charges, including multiple counts of first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense and false imprisonment. Bauer committed the second-degree rape, for which he was convicted, at some point between September 2015 and September 2017, according to the plea agreement.
The judge ordered Bauer to serve five years of supervised probation after completing his seven-year term, listing undergoing substance abuse counseling and treatment, undergoing mental health counseling and having no contact with the victim as three of the conditions.
Davis also ordered Bauer to register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.
The judge’s sentence fell short of the recommendation made by Assistant State’s Attorney Nathaniel Bowen, who sought nine years of active incarceration for Bauer. Bowen specifically requested a 20-year sentence with 11 years suspended.
Bowen noted that state sentencing guidelines, which are based on the seriousness of the offense or offenses, the defendant’s criminal record and other factors, set a penalty range of seven to 13 years of active incarceration for Bauer.
The indictment alleged that Bauer sexually abused the girl numerous times between September 2015 and September 2018, starting when she was about 12 years old and he was 17 and ending when she was approximately 15 and he was 20.
Bowen told the judge that the victim, who is now 17, continues to deal with the negative mental impact of Bauer’s sexual abuse of her. The prosecutor did so while explaining to Davis why the victim was not present for her molester’s sentencing.
Moreover, he reported that the state offered Bauer a plea deal to avoid “re-traumatizing” the victim by going to trial and having her testify while seated in the same courtroom as Bauer.
“She is not in the courtroom today, but it is not because of apathy,” Bowen said, adding, “She cannot be in the same room with him. The emotional strain has devastated her. She lives in her own prison. It’s not tangible, but it’s real.”
Court records indicate that the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office started its investigation in December 2019, after the girl had lodged her allegations against Bauer with Cecil County Child Advocacy Center caseworkers who, in turn, notified CCSO detectives. CCSO Det. Chase Armington served as lead investigator.
The sentence levied by Davis was three years more than sought by Cooksley, who had requested four years of active incarceration for Bauer. Cooksley specifically recommended a 12-year sentence with eight years suspended.
“He is not a community predator,” Cooksley emphasized, reviewing that the criminal case against Bauer relates to only one victim and that Bauer also was a minor when some of the alleged sexual abuse occurred.
Cooksley described Bauer’s childhood as “a horror story,” telling the judge that Bauer’s mother was a drug addict who was unable to properly care for him, which is why he was placed in the foster care system when he was 10 years old. Cooksley reported that Bauer’s father had kidnapped the boy at one point.
Bauer experienced homelessness, a bleak situation that added to the lingering trauma caused by the sexual abuse he had suffered at 9, Cooksley said. Bauer started using drugs at a young age to self-medicate and that led to an addiction — one marked by at least two overdoses, he added. Bauer also has a minor record, he noted.
After entering foster care, Bauer, who eventually was adopted, was able to graduate from high school at 17, according to Cooksley. Bauer wanted to join the U.S. Army, but he did not because he was battling depression, a post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar issues, Cooksley reported.
The defense lawyer told the judge that Bauer was cooperative with investigators, after the victim came forward with the allegations against him, and that he confessed. Bauer also expressed a desire to apologize to the victim, Cooksley reported.
According to the original charging document, which was filed before a Cecil County grand jury handed up a 35-count indictment against him, Bauer admitted that he “knew what he did was wrong” during an interview with Armington and asked the detective to tell the victim “he was sorry.”
Bowen commended Armington and his handling of the investigation, after Friday’s sentence hearing.
“The representation that Mr. Bauer was cooperative and confessed is an oversimplification,” Bowen said, before commenting, “Det. Chase Armington conducted a masterclass of an interview (with Bauer).”
Addressing the judge moments before sentencing, Bauer said that he has dealt — and continues to deal — with his drug addiction and that he is sober. He also expressed a desire to serve as an addictions counselor and to someday earn a psychology degree. In addition, Bauer told Davis that he has a fiancee and that he has grown “close to Christ.”
At one point during his allocution, Bauer said he was “very remorseful” for what he had done. Then he looked to his right at Bowen, who was several feet away at the prosecution table, and requested, “If you do talk to the victim, tell her I’m sorry.”
Bauer ended his allocution by saying, “God bless you” to the judge.