A former St. Mary’s teacher, who was previously indicted on a charge of committing a sexual offense on a student in 1974, is now facing a trial by jury after his plea deal was vacated in court by Circuit Judge Michael Stamm on Monday.
Theodore Bell, a 73-year-old man who taught at White Marsh Elementary School between 1972 and 1975, was supposed to be sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to the charge of second-degree assault.
In court on Monday, Bell’s accuser, a man in his 50s who now resides in Talbot County, detailed the incident, which he says occurred in 1974 when he was 11 years old. According to his accuser, Bell had invited three other boys to his home for a sleepover. “When we were asleep, Mr. Bell came into my bedroom” and took him to another room where he was sodomized by Bell, the man said.
“He did not consider my health issues or my age when he raped me,” the man said. “He had no mercy on me.”
Bell’s accuser also said that on that night, another boy had told him, “Bell’s gonna get you tonight.”
After Bell’s accuser showed discontent with the plea deal, which would charge Bell with misdemeanor second-degree assault, Stamm said he was “uncomfortable” with proceeding with the sentencing, and ordered that the case go to trial.
“This is a ‘he-said, he-said’ case,” Stamm said. “It will totally be up to the credibility of the trial.”
Speaking in his office on Tuesday morning, St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard Fritz said that it would be difficult to pursue the case as a trial.
“My theory was we can tag this guy for what we can tag him for,” Fritz (R) said. “He had admitted to touching underage boys inappropriately.”
Fritz said that the “probability of getting no more than a hung trial is likely. My opinion is you’re gonna get some people hesitating” on the jury, as “there is nothing that corroborates [his accuser’s] story besides his story,” the prosecutor said.
Although the alleged incident happened in 1974, Bell’s accuser did not come forward with the allegations until recently, which Fritz said he believes may cause difficulties in a trial. “The question in the jury’s mind is, ‘How come you didn’t say anything?’” Fritz said.
A release from the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office written after Bell’s indictment stated that it “does not appear any of the crimes occurred on the premises of the school” and that “the possibility of additional victims exists.”
Bell had resided in Leonardtown at the time of the incident, and began working in Anne Arundel County as a special education teacher after he resigned from St. Mary’s public schools in 1975.