Bethlehem Press

Thursday, September 19, 2019
Christian Willman Christian Willman

Former Parkland teacher charged with sexual assault

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 by Susan Bryant sbryant@tnonline.com in Police Log

More victims sought by Bucks County district attorney

Lehigh and Bucks County District Attorneys Jim Martin and Matt Weintraub announced during a joint news conference June 27 additional charges have been filed against former Parkland and Palisades teacher Christian Willman, 39, of Coopersburg, for allegedly sexually assaulting four Parkland High School students.

Weintraub began the news conference.

“I want to make sure first and foremost the community understands it is safe from this man, and secondly to ask for additional information,” Weintraub said. “This is a call to more potential victims and witnesses who may be out there.”

According to Weintraub, Willman worked as the former industrial arts and tech education teacher, as well as the boy’s soccer coach and stage crew and theater supervisor at Parkland High School from 2001 to 2011.

“From 2011 to April 2018, he worked at Palisades High School, here in Bucks County, where he was the former robotics and technology teacher and a girls soccer coach,” Weintraub stated. “He committed, we allege, a series of sexual assaults against his female students and student athletes over the course of his employment at both of these schools.”

According to the affidavit of probable cause obtained from the office of District Judge Gary Gambardella, Ottsville, Bucks County, Trooper Christopher Cleveland with State Police Troop M, Dublin, stated a Palisades female sophomore related around August 2014 Willman allegedly sent her a message telling her his wife and kids were not home and asked her to come over to drink some alcohol.

Weintraub said the purpose of the news conference was to let the public know Willman is being charged on the same criminal complaint, by an amendment, with victimizing the four additional students from Lehigh County.

“These young women are of course incredibly brave for having come forward and deserve to see this man brought to justice,” Weintraub said. “This defendant clearly abused his position of power to gain steady access to many young and unwilling women.

“His behavior is predatory in nature. There was a pattern we allege ... And that is, he essentially created an assembly line for his quick, twisted sexual perversion.”

Weintraub said all of Willman’s alleged victims are young women students in schools where he taught.

“He waits for them to turn age 16, he then resorts to flattery, then text messages, then physical abuse and stops victimizing his victims once they leave high school whether it be through graduation or other means,” he said. “We do have reason to believe there may be other victims because of gaps in our time line that just don’t seem natural.

“There also may be people who have information about the identity of those victims, if not the victim themselves.

“We are seeking those people and any additional witnesses who can corroborate evidence of these crimes.”

Weintraub said they are also looking for video or other forms of electronic evidence in the possession of former students or other people.

“If your child had this man as a teacher, club advisor or a coach, please talk to her, make sure she is OK, don’t interview her, make sure she is OK and contact us, specifically Trooper Cleveland at State Police Dublin at 215-766-5030,” Weintraub said.

He added if anyone has any information that may be important to this investigation, contact Trooper Cleveland and let him and the district attorney’s office be the judge if the information is important to this case.

“And finally if you may have had some contact with this man in both the types I have described, you may not consider yourself to be a victim in the traditional sense of the word whether because perhaps Willman convinced you that he loved you or because you may not have said no to his advances because your will was overborne or he convinced you it was for any of a variety of reasons, let us be the judge of whether or not you were one of his victims or whether his contact was inappropriate and criminal,” Weintraub stated. “You are not alone and you should not feel embarrassed to come forward and stand up for yourself and help support other victims.”

Martin said his office referred two cases from Lehigh County to Bucks County because they knew about Willman’s alleged involvement at Palisades High School.

He said the two cases arose as a result of direct communication from the Parkland School District Superintendent Rich Sniscak.

“Two of the victims in Lehigh County, who had been students at Parkland High School, reported to a teacher with whom they were familiar about the conduct of this defendant,” Martin stated. “That teacher immediately notified the superintendent who immediately notified my office.”

During a question-and-answer session with the media, Martin said two victims came forward in Lehigh County in March 2018.

“The remaining two in Lehigh County for a total of four (young women) in Lehigh County came forward here in Bucks County not to us,” Martin stated. “What we knew of in Bucks County was a result of the investigation that was going on in Lehigh County.

“At this point we pretty much turned it over to Bucks County.”

Martin said he is very pleased with the cooperation his office received from the Parkland School District, particularly the superintendent.

“I am also pleased this prosecution is going forward here in Bucks County,” he stated.

According to the affidavit, Willman is charged with multiple counts of sexual assault by a sports official, volunteer or employee of nonprofit association, institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors, unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of a communication facility, all felonies in the third degree.

Willman has been incarcerated in the Bucks County Jail since May on $1 million bail, but could be freed if he posts 10 percent of his bail, Weintraub said at the news conference.

On June 27 Parkland School District commented about the new charges against Willman in a prepared statement emailed to The Press.

The statement said Willman was employed by Parkland from 2001-11 as a technology education teacher at the high school.

He resigned in August 2011 and it was believed he went to work for Palisades School District.

At various times during his employment at Parkland, Willman also served as the technical director for theater productions, the high school stagecraft advisor and as the assistant boys’ soccer coach.

Parkland first received information about allegations set forth in the Bucks County charges filed on June 27 in March.

“This press conference is obviously distressing to our school community,” Sniscak, stated in the email.

“Parkland School District notified the Parkland community today about the Lehigh/Bucks County press conference and related charges.”