ELLSWORTH — The Tremont man convicted in March of sexually assaulting a young female student while he was teaching at the town’s K-8 school was sentenced Aug. 11 in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court to 11 years in prison with all but three-and-a-half years suspended.
Benjamin Hodgdon II, 48, was convicted March 16 of single counts of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor following a three-day trial in the Ellsworth court.
The 11-year sentence imposed by Justice Robert Murray was for the Class A gross sexual assault charge. Murray additionally sentenced Hodgdon to serve concurrent three-year sentences for each of the remaining counts.
Upon his release from prison, Hodgdon is to serve six years probation and become a lifetime registrant on the Maine Sex Offender Registry. His probation conditions include no contact directly or indirectly with the victim and her family, no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18 with the exception of his children and stepdaughter, and participation in sex offender treatment and counseling.
Hodgdon remains free on bail while an appeal is heard in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. His attorney, David Van Dyke, filed a notice of appeal the day of the sentencing.
However, according to court documents, Van Dyke is no longer Hodgdon’s attorney. Hodgdon applied for a court-appointed attorney and has been determined “partially indigent” by the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services. According to the form used by the commission, Hodgdon, who runs a landscaping business, claims that he made $8,452 in 2015.
Hodgdon is to pay a portion of the legal expenses related to his appeal. He is to pay $100 a month until he reaches a cap of $687, according to the document.
Rory McNamara of Drake Law LLC in Auburn has been appointed as Hodgdon’s new attorney.
Last week at the sentencing, the victim, who is now 30, and members of her family spoke of the impact they all experienced as the result of the Hodgdon’s criminal behavior.
The victim said that over the past decade she has been addicted to drugs, pumping heroin into her system “to purge you [Hodgdon] and the demons you caused.” “I hold you accountable for taking my innocence,” she continued, adding that Hodgdon would never know “the true pain” he caused.
Her mother described the once close relationship the family had with Hodgdon.
“He was more than a teacher and coach; he was a trusted friend of ours,” she said. “What he did to [the victim] shattered her.”
Saying she felt sorry for those in the courtroom who believe Hodgdon is innocent, she referred to a piece of evidence that Van Dyke successfully moved to suppress during the trial.
“If they were able to hear that recording, they would have known this had happened,” she said.
The victim’s father said the worse news he ever received was “when my daughter told me she had been raped by a teacher.” The sexual assaults resulted in “the murder of her soul,” he said,
“My daughter will continue to serve a life sentence,” he concluded before calling for Hodgdon to be sentenced to the full 30 years in prison that he faced.
Hodgdon’s family and others spoke on his behalf, saying he is a good father, husband and son, someone who has helped many people and is a key figure in the life of his family.
Hodgdon said his goal always has been to “help heal and improve the lives of young people.” He took no responsibility for his criminal acts.
“I never did or never would hurt anybody in the way I was convicted of,” he said. “But I can’t take responsibility for something I didn’t do. I did not commit the crimes I was convicted of.”
Hodgdon’s wife, Hilary, described the difficulty of being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, where, she said, women had no input into making decisions.
“I’ve come to believe Ben is the only real man I had in my life,” she said.
She asked Murray to “think of our children” when determining a sentence, as well as taking into consideration that her husband has no other criminal record.
“He has so much more to teach and give,” she said.
Hodgdon’s brother Bill Hodgdon told the court that his brother’s children need the support of their father and how his older sibling became a role model after watching him pitch in Little League baseball.
“That man became my idol and someone I’ve looked up to ever since,” he said.
In delivering the sentence, Murray noted that Hodgdon’s supporters mentioned the defendant had done “great and marvelous things.”
But, he continued, “there are people who are capable of doing great and marvelous things, and those same people are capable of doing reprehensible things.”
At Hodgdon’s trial in March, a jury of 10 men and two women deliberated for about five-and-a-half hours before returning the verdict. Hodgdon was acquitted on three additional counts of gross sexual assault and single counts of unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor.
The allegations of abuse surfaced in July 2013, when the victim met with a detective to report she had been sexually assaulted by Hodgdon numerous times when she was 13 and 14 years old and a student at the Tremont Consolidated School. At the time, Hodgdon was a sixth-grade teacher and coached cross-country at the school.