Montco karate teacher, charged by feds with molesting teen students, is denied bail

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Federal authorities have accused karate teacher Evan Scott Burgess, 26, of Blue Bell, of molesting two of his students during out-of-town trips.

Saying he presents a danger to the community and could be a flight risk due to his international contacts, a judge in Philadelphia on Monday denied bail to a Montgomery County karate instructor charged with sexually assaulting a two students, ages 15 and 16.

During an arraignment and detention hearing, Evan Scott Burgess spoke only to say “not guilty” twice when U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski asked how he pleaded.

His attorney, federal defender Elizabeth Toplin, argued that Burgess, 26, should be released on bail, ordered to wear an electronic monitor, and be allowed to live in Blue Bell with his parents, who attended the hearing. She said he has no reason to go near his alleged victims or the former karate school where he worked, and therefore posed no danger to the community.

Camera icon Montgomery County District Attorney
Federal authorities have accused karate teacher Evan Scott Burgess, 26, of Blue Bell, of molesting two students during out-of-town trips.

Toplin noted that Burgess last month posted $5,000 bail after he was arrested by police in Whitpain Township, Montgomery County, giving him further incentive to show up for trial. He was re-arrested days later after federal prosecutors took the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben argued that Burgess is charged with “a crime of violence” and is a flight risk because he has traveled internationally in support of his career as a karate instructor and has maintained friendships abroad.

In denying Burgess bail, Sitarski noted his international travels, including trips to Sweden, Africa, and Japan. He was escorted from the courtroom in handcuffs.

Burgess is accused of using his position as a karate instructor at DeStolfo’s Premier Martial Arts Studio in Plymouth Meeting to meet and groom underage students for illicit sexual activities during martial arts tournaments.

On a trip to Maryland in August 2016, a 16-year-old boy told authorities, he woke up to find Burgess trying to have sex with him. The boy told investigators he jumped out of bed, left the hotel, and spent the night wandering the streets.

During a September 2014 trip to the New York City borough of Queens, a 15-year-old boy told investigators, he woke up in his hotel bed to find Burgess groping his genitals through his clothing.

Burgess is charged in those two cases with traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct or attempting to do so. The maximum sentence upon conviction for each charge is 30 years, Witzleben said.