Although the allegations involving two former Los Angeles area elementary school teachers may be different from other sex abuse cases, the choice of victim is hardly unique. The fundamental elements are strangely familiar: vulnerable children from disenfranchised families, showered with gifts and attention, groomed to trust adult predators in positions of authority. The setting is eerily similar to a pattern recently alleged at Penn State University, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been accused of using a charity he created to prey on underage boys from troubled families, victims who were unlikely to speak out.
Mark Berndt Sexual Abuse Update 5/10/12: Mark Berndt has reportedly waived his right to a speedy trial, and must next face a hearing where the government will outline its case against him that may take up to 10 days to complete. Judge Shelly Torrealba agreed to delay the hearing until at least the middle of June. Click here to learn more.
Free Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse or molestation, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the perpetrator of the sexual abuse and we can help.
What’s the problem?
February 10, 2012 – At Miramonte Elementary in South Los Angeles, the alleged victims are among the most impoverished in the entire county. The vast majority of the school’s 1,400 students are from poor Hispanic families, many of which are illegal in the United States and fearful of police. It’s a voiceless and easily-victimized sect where fear of authority figures is engrained into the very fabric of the community.
Miramonte is an ideal setting for an adult predator to take advantage of a helpless child, knowing the chances the victim would report the crime would be slim to none. And if the crime was reported, it’s unlikely it would be believed. It’s a scenario that’s been played out at the school before.
Ricardo Guevara, a former Miramonte Elementary teacher’s aid, is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for sexually abusing three kindergarten girls in 2004. LAUSD was ordered to pay $1.6 million to Guevara’s victim’s families.
61-year-old Mark Berndt, who worked as a teacher at Miramonte for more than three decades, was recently charged with 23 counts of lewd behavior with underage children. To date, investigators have uncovered approximately 600 incriminating photographs Berndt allegedly took depicting bizarre acts on children he claimed were games. A number of the photos show children eating cookies laced with a substance police believe to be Berndt’s semen.
Just days after Berndt was arrested, the Los Angeles sheriff’s department detained another Miramonte teacher, 49-year-old Martin Springer, on similar charges. Springer pleaded not guilty earlier this week to charges he fondled a second grade girl.
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