BEVERLY HILLS/CLAWSON — A former Birmingham Public Schools teacher is due back in court in March for charges of sexual misconduct, and according to prosecutors, this isn’t the first time the defendant has been accused of such behavior.
Christopher Keen, 59, of Birmingham, is the former owner of Kaleidoscope Studio for the Performing Arts in Clawson. He was charged Jan. 24 with sexually assaulting one of his students, and police believe there are more who have been assaulted. Keen pleaded not guilty.
He faced 52-4 District Court Judge Maureen McGinnis Jan. 31, who set the preliminary examination for March 14.
The charges include first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The first charge is a felony punishable by life in prison; the second is a 15-year felony.
Clawson police said the minor in the case was between 13 and 16 years old at the time of the assaults, which allegedly took place at both the studio and at Keen’s home during 2013 and 2014.
Clawson Police Chief Scott Sarvello said police have identified two other possible victims and that police are actively investigating the case. He said Keen used his influence as a mentor to “take advantage of students, advising them not to tell anybody because his life would be over, and telling them he loved them.”
Keen waived his right to a preliminary examination within 21 days of arraignment at the request of both the prosecution and the defense so that the court could accommodate scheduling issues.
McGinnis said potential witnesses will testify at the March 14 preliminary examination. She also reiterated Keen’s bond conditions, which include that he not leave the state and have no contact with the studio, the student in the case, the student’s family or anyone 18 years old or younger.
Keen said he surrendered his passport within 24 hours of being arraigned, that he lives with his wife and 28-year-old daughter, and that he is currently not employed.
He is not in jail after posting 25 percent of his bond, or $62,500, which 52-4 District Court Magistrate Donald Chisholm had set at $250,000 cash or surety, or 10 percent.
During the Jan. 31 hearing, assistant prosecuting attorney Sarah Greene said she tendered approximately 82 pages of discovery to Keen’s defense attorney, Steven Schwartz.
Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said the discovery consists of police reports, witness statements, witness interviews and other evidence that relates to the case.
He said the prosecution plans to call the student in the case as a witness during the preliminary examination. The purpose is to prove probable cause; if the prosecution does, the case will be bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court to begin the pretrial process.
Keen has been in court for similar charges in the past.
Walton said Keen was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1992.
“Ultimately, he was allowed to plead to six counts of assault and battery,” Walton said.
Assault and battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 92 days in jail. Walton said Keen spent 30 days in jail.
Walton said Keen worked at Birmingham Public Schools as a voice or music instructor at the time, and the charges resulted after he assaulted two victims.
“We know the accused individual was employed with the district from 1990-92, and (we) are sickened by the allegations and the damage done within our community,” Anne Cron, the interim director for communications and family engagement for BPS, said in an email. “We offer our support to the victims and community reeling from this news. We worked to identify our students that attended the studio and provided counseling and a safe place to talk and process, and (we) continue to be available to our students in need.”
Cron would not confirm whether the accusations were made against Keen during his time with BPS, and Deputy Chief Howard Shock, of the Beverly Hills Public Safety Department, did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment on the case before press time.
Richard Thompson, the prosecutor at the time, sent a letter to the Michigan Board of Education outlining the sexual assault allegations and stating that Keen had pleaded guilty to reduced charges, Walton said. However, the incident took place before the Sex Offenders Registration Act of 1994, so there were no laws to track offenders.
Walton said he could only speculate about the reduction of the criminal sexual conduct charges in 1992, but that it may have been an evidentiary issue. He added that the case was sent to the Michigan Supreme Court before returning to Oakland County Circuit Court.
“Just looking at the entries, there’s not a lot of documentation,” Walton said.
Now, he said, all reductions include necessary compliance. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office is required to notify crime victims and the officer in charge to make sure all concerns are heard, and all reductions must be documented.
“The only thing I can say is we’re vigorously investigating this case,” Walton said. “If other victims are out there, we ask they contact the Clawson Police Department so we can investigate their concerns.”
Sarvello said the three students who police have identified were all between the ages of 13 and 16, and “so far at this point, it’s all males that were victimized.”
To make a report, call Detective Sgt. Kellie Bauss, of the Clawson Police Department, at (248) 655-4450.
Greene declined to comment, and Schwartz did not respond to a request for comment by press time.