It was only a year ago that Michael Binns, Sr. was preparing for retirement following a 35-year teaching career marked by accolades from the Arkansas Senate as well as local, regional and state organizations.
Today, the former choir director is facing rape charges. His trial is scheduled for mid July with a pretrial hearing set for June.
Binns is accused of drugging and raping two of his former students at his home last November, according to a State Police case summary obtained last week under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
The alleged victims, one 16 years old and the other 18 years old, claim Binns drugged and assaulted them during the evening of November 12 and the early morning hours of November 13. They were at Binns’ home celebrating one of the boys’ birthday, according to the case summary.
Binns, according to the case summary, admitted that the two boys had consumed alcohol while at his home and in his presence, one boy slept in his bed with him, and he had a conversation with the other boy about his sexual anatomy.
“Although Binns said he did not recall doing anything sexual with (the alleged victims), he said he may have put his arms around them while they were sleeping, thinking that they were his snuggle pillow,” the case summary reads.
Later, he denied that both boys were ever in his bed at the same time, according to the report.
“Binns stated that he did not want to think in his mind that anything happened between him and (one of the alleged victims) but he knew in his heart that something could have happened,” the report reads. “He insisted that whatever happened, which he could not recall, he felt bad about it.”
DNA obtained from one of the alleged victims’ underwear, and tested at the State Crime Lab, was Binns’ DNA, according to the State Police case summary.
Following Binns’ arrest, former students came forward making sexual assault and rape allegations, some dating back 25 years.
“They reported being given prescription medications and alcohol while visiting their teacher, Michael Binns’ home,” the State Police report reads. “They reported viewing porn and being touched inappropriately on their sexual organs while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”
Included in the voluminous case file, is a copy of a 2006 letter from the parent of a former Monticello High School student making claims of inappropriate conduct by Binns. Specifically, Binns had contact by phone with the student in the evenings, invited him to go to out of town to eat dinner and see a movie, and had purchased tobacco for him, according to the letter.
The letter was followed by a letter from the high school principal to Binns, which reads in part:
“I want to make it very clear that under no circumstances are you to have any contact with (the student) outside of the school day or during the school day. You are not to call (the student) or any other students at his/her home at any time or invite them to go places with you. You should not be alone with any student of the Monticello School District without the knowledge and consent of their parents. Buying tobacco products and giving them to a minor is against the law. You are not to buy tobacco products or any other product that is against the law for a minor to possess or consume. These are very serious issues and I expect you to abide by this letter. If any of these conditions are not met, then you will be recommended for termination from the Monticello School District. I expect your complete cooperation in this matter.”
Meanwhile, Binns was receiving accolades from numerous organizations.
Binns was named Southeast Arkansas Choral Directors’ Senior High Choir Director of the Year in 2007. It was the fifth time he had received the award. In 2005, he was recognized by the Arkansas Senate for his 30 years of service as a choir director. He received the same citation from the Senate in 2010, several months before his retirement. He was recognized by the Arkansas All State Clinic in 2004 for his 30 years of service. In 2003, he was selected for induction into the University of Arkansas at Monticello African-American Alumni Association’s “Alumni Elite.” In 2002, he received the Senior High Director of the Year award. In 1999, he was selected as junior and senior high director of the year. In 1998, he was selected as a “Master Educator.” He was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 1995 by a local civic organization, and in 1994, the Arkansas General Assembly recognized him for his choral accomplishments.
Last spring, shortly before Binns’ retirement, he made his final “curtain call” singing Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Way We Were” at the Monticello School District’s spring choir concert and awards ceremony.