Man convicted of third-degree child molestation

EVERETT — Plenty of his family, friends and former students don’t believe that Kristopher Backman sexually abused a 15-year-old girl during private lessons at his Monroe dance studio. A Snohomish County judge disputed those claims.

Superior Court Judge David Kurtz convicted Backman of third-degree child molestation earlier this week following a bench trial. Backman also admitted to the crime in court documents, a fact the judge pointed out to people who attended Tuesday’s hearing.

Kurtz sentenced the Monroe man to nine months in jail. The judge ordered Backman, 34, to spend at least two weeks behind bars but agreed to allow him to serve the rest on work release if he qualifies.

Backman and his wife owned Stanza Performing Arts Co. He studied at conservatories and danced for professional dance companies before becoming an instructor.

A girl, now 17, brought allegations to Monroe police in November 2015, accusing her then-instructor of touching her inappropriately on three separate occasions while she was stretching. The first incident occurred in December 2014.

Police interviewed other dance students who took lessons at the studio. None reported inappropriate touching, but “almost all of them told detectives about other inappropriate comments and conduct” by Backman, court papers said.

It wasn’t the first time Backman was under investigation for sexual misconduct with a student. In 2008, Redmond police investigated allegations that Backman had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student. She told detectives that Backman started inappropriately touching while she stretched during private lessons. She later alleged that they had engaged in a sexual relationship.

King County prosecutors declined to file charges in part because the girl initially denied the sexual contact with Backman when confronted, according to court documents.

The woman, now 25, agreed to testify in the Snohomish County case.

Backman’s supporters wore ribbons to Tuesday’s hearing. They also wrote letters, saying he was a good instructor who never inappropriately touched their children. A former student, the daughter of an Everett police detective, blamed the victim for making up the allegations, calling her a compulsive liar and bully.

The victim’s mother wrote a letter telling the judge her daughter has suffered from nightmares and panic attacks, made worse because adults and peers told her they didn’t believe her. They “said she just wanted attention and that she should stop trying to ruin” the Backmans’ lives, the woman wrote in a letter to the judge.

Her daughter endured the scrutiny “to prevent another girl from having to go through this pain and process,” the victim’s mother wrote.

Backman will have to register as a sex offender and get a sexual deviancy evaluation. Kurtz also extended certain restrictions for Backman beyond the year he will be under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections. The judge said he was doing that for the public’s safety.

That means for the next five years Backman isn’t allowed to have contact with minors, except his own children, unless it’s in the presence of an adult who knows about his offense. He also can’t have a job that puts him in contact with minors.