May 10, 2012 – Last week, a former Los Angeles elementary school teacher facing 23 counts of lewd acts against children waived his right to a speedy trial. Sixty-one-year-old Mark Berndt, who taught at Miramonte Elementary in East LA for over 30 years, was arrested on Jan. 30 after he allegedly took obscene photos of his students in a number of explicit positions. Berndt’s alleged victims were between seven and 10-years-old at the time of the encounters.
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When asked if he understood the significance of the motion to waive his right to a speedy trial, Berndt answered politely in the affirmative to Judge Shelly Torrealba at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles.
“Yes I do, your honor,” Berndt said.
To date, prosecutors have turned over more than 400 pieces of evidence to Berndt’s attorney, who said the hearing where the government will outline its case against his client may take up to 10 days to complete. Judge Torrealba agreed to delay the hearing until at least the middle of June.
Berndt reportedly blindfolded and sometimes gagged his victims with tape, telling them they were going to play a ‘tasting game.’ According to authorities, Berndt then used a blue plastic spoon to feed the children a white substance that was later determined to be his semen. The students were then asked whether the substance tasted sweet or salty, authorities said. One alleged victim’s father told the Los Angeles Times that his son was photographed eating a cookie that appeared to be laced with semen.
Berndt was arrested by the LA County Sheriff’s Department on January 30th after a yearlong investigation. The department was tipped off to the suspect when a CVS photo mat turned over pictures of his alleged acts to authorities. Berndt’s victims include a total of 23 boys and girls between the ages of seven and 10 whom he had contact with between 2008 and 2010.
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