Jury finds former Clawson dance studio owner guilty of criminal sexual conduct

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 10, 2019

 Defendant Christopher Keen sits in the courtroom of the 52-4 District Court prior to being bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court March 14. A jury found him guilty of five counts of criminal sexual conduct Nov. 19. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 8.

Defendant Christopher Keen sits in the courtroom of the 52-4 District Court prior to being bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court March 14. A jury found him guilty of five counts of criminal sexual conduct Nov. 19. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 8.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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CLAWSON — On Nov. 19, a jury found Christopher David Keen, the former owner of Kaleidoscope Studio for the Performing Arts in Clawson, guilty of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Keen currently is housed in the Oakland County Jail, and he is scheduled to be sentenced by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James M. Alexander Jan. 8.

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

The studio closed shortly after Keen was arraigned Jan. 24.

The charges stem from a series of incidents involving a victim, now in his early 20s, in 2013, when he was 15 years old until his 16th birthday.

During a March 14 preliminary examination, the victim testified that he was enrolled at Kaleidoscope before eighth grade and continued until he was 17 years old. He said that Keen sexually assaulted him for a period of approximately three years, from the ages of 15 to 17, when the two were alone.

He testified that the assaults took place at both the studio and at Keen’s home in Birmingham 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. He said the assaults generally began with a massage and led to criminal sexual conduct, followed by their scheduled voice lesson.

Clawson Police Chief Scott Sarvello previously said that 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.”

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 in March 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 last school year.

Clawson police reportedly identified at least two other possible victims of Keen who were between the ages of 13 and 16 at the time of the alleged assaults.

Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said that it was possible more charges could be levied against Keen, but that would be dependent upon where the investigation goes and if the victims wish to undergo the process of a trial.

“Unfortunately, there’s diminished returns on some of these cases, because Michigan, with some notable exceptions in its statute, does not have consecutive sentencing,” Walton said. “We have concurrent sentencing.”

He said the prosecution successfully demonstrated to the jury over a five-day trial that Keen was guilty of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

“We’ll be advocating for a high sentence, either at the top end of the guidelines or exceeding the guidelines,” Walton said. “We obviously take it very seriously and spend a great deal of time going into the community, trying to make parents aware of dangers and predatory conduct like this. Equally important is understanding that when a child feels like they are in a position of being abused, they bring it to a parent’s attention immediately. No one should have to suffer in silence.”

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

Walton previously said that Keen had been 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 that Keen spent 30 days in jail.

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

Walton said new laws enacted since 1992 mandate that all reductions of charges include necessary compliance. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office is required to notify crime victims and the officer in charge of a case to make sure that all concerns are heard, and all reductions must be documented.

In a prior interview, Steven Schwartz, Keen’s defense attorney, said that the charges were a surprise to Keen’s family and “everyone.”

Schwartz did not return a request for comment by press time.

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