Note: The following is based upon a news release from the Bucks County District Attorney’s office shared on the office’s Crimewatch site.
A former Palisades High School teacher and girls’ soccer coach has been sentenced to state prison for the sexual abuse of six students.
Christian Howard Willman, 40, of Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 counts related to the abuse, which began in 2005 when he was a teacher at Parkland High School in South Whitehall Township. Authorities said the abuse continued for a total of 13 years, which included his tenure at Palisades High School in Nockamixon Township, Bucks County.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, Willman admitted to charges of sexual assault by a sports official, sexual contact with a student, criminal solicitation to the prior counts, criminal use of a communications facility, manufacturing child pornography and corruption of minors.
Willman’s abuse of the victims typically followed a pattern of targeting and grooming vulnerable girls who he would later sexually abuse, the court heard.
“He spoke to me like a friend,” one victim said in court. “At 14 years old, this made me feel special.”
When his victims entered high school, Willman adopted what another victim called a “one-of-the-kids persona” and used flattery and attention to ingratiate himself, with sexual abuse typically beginning in the victim’s sophomore year and continuing in some cases until the victim’s graduation, the Bucks County District Attorney’s office said.
As the abuse went on, Willman employed what another victim termed a “calculated web of deception” to exploit his victims’ insecurities and isolate them from friends and family.
“All the while, he strung his victims along with promises of a continued relationship after the victims’ graduated and reminders to keep silent about the abuse,” the Bucks County DA’s office said.
After the court heard from his six victims, Willman elected not to speak.
President Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr. ordered Willman to serve an agreed-upon sentence of six to 12 years in state prison. He also must register for 25 years a sex offender following his eventual release.
“Instead of a teacher, these young women were introduced to and left with a predator,” the judge said. “The physical and emotional damage will never be forgotten. The damage, by all accounts, is immeasurable.”
Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler applauded the victims for coming forward and confronting their abuser.
“I am continually in awe of the courage these young women have displayed throughout this process,” she said. “Because of their bravery, this sexual predator is going to state prison, and will never again hold a position of trust in the community. This is a great day for victims everywhere.”
The case was investigated by Pennsylvania State Police and prosecuted by Kohler.