Bail for sexual assault suspect Andrew Bennett was on Friday set at $50,000, after the judge heard from members of his family who asked for a bond amount they could afford to post, but prosecutors requested an elevated amount for community safety purposes.
A protection order put into place also prohibits him from having contact with anyone under 18.
Bennett, who turned 19 on the day of his advisement, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of sexual assault on a child; a related sex crime and child abuse. An arrest affidavit lists as alleged victims two people, a girl under 10 and a girl now in her late teens.
According to the document, police began investigating Tuesday, after a person in Canada contacted them to allege that Bennett, an online friend of his, had confessed to acts of sexual abuse.
The reporting party said Bennett indicated “he could no longer hide from that truth and saw it as a reason to die,” as well as a desire to move away in order to “escape,” Montrose Police Officer Patrick Demers wrote in the affidavit.
Investigators collected screenshots of the reported conversation between the witness and Bennett.
Demers later interviewed Bennett and Bennett allegedly admitted to acts of sexual intercourse with a child, over a period of five years and, by his estimate, about 100 different times.
In forensic interviews at the Dolphin House Child Advocacy Center, one child witness reported about 10 incidents of alleged sexual abuse, per the affidavit. The document also says another child witness discussed alleged sexual touching that took place when she was 9 and Bennett was about 10.
In court Friday, Bennett’s father said the family had arranged for him to stay at one of his grandmother’s homes, at which no children live. They would make sure he complied with court orders, the older man said, asking for a personal recognizance bond.
The grandmother later confirmed Bennett could stay with her. Bennett’s other grandmother explained that he does not function on the same level many other teenagers do — he doesn’t even have a driver’s license — and has “been so sheltered.” He’s not a flight risk, she said.
“He is sheltered,” public defender Marita Robinson said later, arguing for a low-level bond in part because of Bennett’s age and maturity level.
Bennett was homeschooled and attained only about a third-grade level education, she said.
“This is an exceptional circumstance. Mr. Bennett is an adult legally, but perhaps not emotionally. … Mr. Bennett is presumed innocent,” Robinson said.
Bennett is not a flight risk, she reiterated, and he scored low for such risk on an assessment tool used in the court system. Further, he will not be in the same home as any children if released — and the court should not speculate as to whether additional allegations would be added to the complaint, Robinson said.
The sexual assault allegation constitutes a high-risk crime that could, if there is a conviction, carry an indeterminate sentence, Deputy District Attorney Sergio Renteria said earlier during the hearing.
“The bond needs to show that. Failure to appear is not our concern. This is a high-risk crime against children. There may be additional victims,” he said.
Further, the initial investigation revealed allegations that Bennett couldn’t control himself around one of the children, Renteria said. He also said there were no bond conditions the court could impose to ensure community safety, so he asked for bail to be set at $60,000.
Montrose County Judge Ben Morris said he would base his decision only on the information at hand, not on additional information that might surface later.
“This is a disturbing case,” Morris said. Although Bennett is not a flight risk and has no criminal history, Morris said he has “profound concerns” because of the allegation the defendant is not able to control himself.
A significant bond is warranted, Morris said, setting the amount at $50,000.