Former Clawson dance studio owner bound over to circuit court

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 19, 2019

 Defendant Christopher Keen sits in the courtroom of 52-4 District Court Judge Maureen McGinnis during his preliminary examination March 14.

Defendant Christopher Keen sits in the courtroom of 52-4 District Court Judge Maureen McGinnis during his preliminary examination March 14.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Prosecutor Sarah Greene examines a witness while defense attorney Steven Schwartz looks on during Keen’s preliminary examination.

Prosecutor Sarah Greene examines a witness while defense attorney Steven Schwartz looks on during Keen’s preliminary examination.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLAWSON — On March 14, Judge Maureen McGinnis, of the 52-4 District Court in Troy, bound over a Birmingham man accused of sexually assaulting a minor to Oakland County Circuit Court with additional charges.

Prosecutor Sarah Greene submitted an amended complaint against 59-year-old Christopher Keen, which included four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Greene said the counts all took place in 2013, from when the complainant in the case was 15 years old until his 16th birthday.

Keen was originally charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He pleaded not guilty.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony punishable by life in prison. Second-degree criminal sexual conduct is a 15-year felony.

Keen owned Kaleidoscope Studio for the Performing Arts in Clawson, which shuttered shortly after he was initially charged. Police said they believe there are other students who were victims of Keen who have not yet come forward, and that police had identified two other possible victims.

On March 14, Greene requested that students who were present in McGinnis’s courtroom who were not yet interviewed by police and who were potential witnesses wait in the hallway.

Clawson Police Chief Scott Sarvello previously 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 is out of jail after posting 25 percent of his bond, or $62,500, which 52-4 District Court Magistrate Donald Chisholm set at $250,000 cash or surety, or 10 percent.

During Keen’s March 14 preliminary examination, Greene called the former student who made the complaint to police about Keen to testify. Now 21 years old, he testified that he enrolled at Kaleidoscope before eighth grade and continued until he was 17 years old. He said Keen sexually assaulted him for a period of approximately three years, from the ages of 15 to 17, when the two were alone.

The former student testified that the assaults took place at both the studio and at Keen’s home multiple times a week for years, as well as during a trip to Mexico with two other students on spring break of his senior year of high school. He said the assaults generally began with a massage and led to inappropriate, and criminal, sexual conduct, followed by their scheduled voice lesson.

“I didn’t know what to do. I knew that it was wrong, and I didn’t want anybody to find out. I’d be lying there and I’d find a spot to focus on the wall or on the ceiling, and I would just lay there and it would happen,” he said. “He would say, ‘If you tell anybody, my life would be over.’”

Despite mentioning what was happening to him to a faculty member at a summer intensive and being contacted by Clawson police after leaving the studio, the former student testified that he wasn’t ready to tell anybody about his experiences at the time. Three years later, he reached out to police and ultimately made a statement over winter break this school year.

Keen was arraigned on the initial charges Jan. 24.

Despite Greene’s request to add an additional $250,000 bond and, if Keen posted it, to place him under house arrest, McGinnis opted to maintain his bond conditions, which include that he not leave the state nor have contact with the studio, the student in the case, the student’s family or anyone 18 years old or younger.

Keen, an Australian native, surrendered his passport shortly after being arraigned. His defense attorney, Steven Schwartz, said he was not sure where Keen is staying now. Schwartz said that the charges were a surprise to Keen’s family and “everyone.”

Schwartz argued to the court that the former student could not remember specific dates and times. McGinnis said that there was probable cause to bind over the case.

Keen has been in court for similar charges in the past.

Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton previously said Keen was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1992, but he was allowed to plead to six counts of assault and battery.

Assault and battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail. Walton said Keen spent 30 days in jail.

Keen was a music or voice instructor with Birmingham Public Schools at the time, and the charges resulted after he assaulted two victims.

Richard Thompson, the prosecutor at the time, sent a letter to the Michigan Board of Education outlining the allegations and 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 the Oakland County Circuit Court.

“There’s not a lot of documentation,” he 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.

In a prior interview, Sarvello said other students police have identified as victims of Keen were all between the ages of 13 and 16, and “so far at this point, it’s all males that were victimized.”

Anyone with information can call Sgt. Kellie Bauss, of the Clawson Police Department, at (248) 655-4450.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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