WEST BATH — A longtime leader of a youth theater program sexually abused three girls under the age of 13 whom he met when he was a director of the group’s community musicals, according to an affidavit released in court Monday.

Henry A. Eichman, 56, of Topsham, made his first appearance in West Bath District Court Monday afternoon on two counts each of sexual exploitation of a minor under 12, unlawful sexual contact and violation of privacy. He was arrested Friday after Topsham police executed a search warrant at his home.

The affidavit described pool parties and sleepovers that Eichman had with children who participated in the theater program.

The allegations against Eichman have devastated the community of parents and children who participate in the Midcoast Youth Theater program, said Julie Meyer, president of the program’s board of directors. The all-volunteer organization put on six productions in 2015 that involved about 300 children and parents. Eichman helped found the group in 2003.

Sagadahoc Deputy District Attorney Jon Liberman said Eichman used his connections to the youth drama program to prey on the children, and requested that bail be set at $10,000.

“These children were spending a lot of nights at his home, spending time at pool parties,” Liberman said.

Eichman appeared via video link from Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, sitting quietly next to his attorney, James Mason, and spoke only to acknowledge that he understood his legal rights.

Mason argued for $500 cash bail, citing Eichman’s long-standing ties to the community, a job he has held for 20 years and his lack of a prior criminal record.

Mason said Eichman is married with a child, and has been a landscaper for 20 years. He is a homeowner who has lived in Maine for 30 years.

Eichman has been a part-time drama teacher at St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick since 2008, according to Dave Guthro, communications director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Guthro said in an email that Eichman also assisted with the afterschool program in spring 2016 and had returned to assist that program this academic year, but was suspended and barred from the campus after his arrest Friday.

Judge Joseph Fields ordered Eichman held on $5,000 cash bail or $50,000 real estate surety. If he is released, Eichman is barred from having contact with children under 16, including the three victims, and is required to stay away from all schools, Midcoast Youth Theater functions and the Midcoast Presbyterian Church, where the group typically holds rehearsals and other meetings.

In an interview Monday morning before the court proceeding, Meyer said she and others involved in the volunteer theater group are reeling from the accusations. At the time of the interview, Meyer said no one from her organization had been contacted by authorities and it was not yet public that the alleged victims were members of the theater organization.

Meyer, who joined the board in 2013, said the group had not been performing background checks on its directors because all the directors had worked in various school systems, where background checks are mandatory.

“We understood that all of our directors worked in school systems and assumed that background checks had been done,” Meyers said. “But that’s not to say that our eyes have not been opened and we will certainly do that in the future.”

State records indicate that Eichman has no prior criminal record in Maine.

Meyer has organized a closed-door meeting this week for parents involved in the theater group to ask questions and connect with counselors who specialize in sexual assault support.

“We will tell them what I told you, (which) is that we don’t have any information,” Meyer said. “But we will of course hear them out, because they are devastated, as well as scared. So we’ll try to honor the emotional process going forward.”

Meyer could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon after the release of the affidavit, which revealed that the alleged victims had participated in the theater program.

A person who answered the phone at the number listed for board member Margaret Bouthot said that she was not home and would not want to comment. Other board members did not return calls or could not be found.

The Midcoast Youth Theater program’s website describes the group’s mission as empowering youth “through a safe, nurturing theater experience, to build life skills with teamwork, creative problem solving, public speaking, risk taking, and tolerance while enhancing self-awareness and self-esteem.”

The Diocese of Portland said it had informed St. John’s parents about Eichman, and was providing counseling services. Guthro referred questions about whether any St. John’s students were allegedly abused to Topsham police.

Guthro said the diocese did regular background checks on Eichman. The latest was with the state Department of Health and Human Services this July, and a nationwide background check was done in 2013. Diocesan employees are subject to a nationwide check every five years, Guthro said.

The two-page affidavit describes multiple incidents of abuse that span two years and were first reported to police by a parent Aug. 18.

In interviews with police officers, the victims described multiple incidents when Eichman either touched them inappropriately or secretly took photographs and video of them at his home on Pleasant Street in Topsham.

During pool parties, the children allege that Eichman did not want them tracking water into his apartment to use the bathroom, so he set up a bucket outside for them to use instead. While using the outdoor bucket, one child described seeing a “video camera thing” with a blinking red light that was recording her, according to the affidavit.

The other incidents involve multiple sleepovers at Eichman’s home.

One child allegedly saw two other children sleeping in Eichman’s bed with him, and that he was “moving up and down” on top of one of them, the affidavit said.

On another occasion last winter, Eichman made the children sleep on his living room floor, and did not allow them to wear underwear. Eichman slept on a couch nearby. One girl said she woke up at night to use the bathroom and discovered Eichman was “fake sleeping,” and that he had a camera he was using to take photos of the other children as they slept.

Eichman is also accused of fondling one girl under her clothing as she sat on his lap to use a computer.

Staff Writer Peter McGuire contributed to this report.


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