Ex-local educator acquitted after 4 years under a cloud

Former Midway ISD teacher’s aide Michael George Benns, 39, was acquitted Tuesday in Waco’s 54th District Court on three counts of sexual activity with an underage victim. (File)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Former Midway ISD teacher’s aide Michael George Benns, 39, was acquitted Tuesday in Waco’s 54th District Court on three counts of sexual activity with an underage victim.

Jurors found Benns not guilty of inappropriate relationship between an educator and a child, sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by contact almost exactly four years to the day after he was first arrested on Nov. 3, 2015.

“The state put on a good case, but the jury just didn’t believe there was enough evidence there to convict,” Michael Daglenberg, Benns’ attorney, said Wednesday.

Benns had worked as a paraprofessional teacher’s aide at the district's alternative campus since Jan. 5, 2015.

Police began their investigation in mid-February after the mother of a Midway High School student reported her daughter had been having sex with a teacher.

Officials became aware of the Waco Police Department's investigation in February 2015 and Benns was placed on unpaid leave on Feb. 16, 2015.

Police said the alleged sexual encounter occurred between Benns and the victim, whom police described as a girl younger than 17, in late January in a downtown parking lot.

She’s now 21.

The incident was reported to police by the victim’s mother.

The victim is no longer a Midway High School student, and Benns knew the victim before he started at Midway, according to a message Midway ISD Superintendent George Kazanas posted to the school’s website and sent to parents in the district.

“Benns came with strong references from youth organizations in the community,” Kazanas said.

He also served as a youth pastor at his church, and members there vigorously supported his defense, Dahlenberg said.

“(Prosecutors) William Hicks and Sidney Tuggle did a good job of presenting their case and I don’t fault them at all,” Dalenberg said.

“But I believed my client and the jury did, too.

Benns, under state law, was forced to relinquish his teaching credentials and Dahlenberg said Wednesday he wasn’t sure if the former educator can petition for the return of his teaching certificate, even in the wake of his acquittal.