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Ex-Miramonte Teacher Accused of Lewd Acts Pleads No Contest

A former L.A. Unified teacher accused of engaging students in bizarre sex games appeared Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, where he pleaded no contest after agreeing to a sentence of 25 years in prison.
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Mark Berndt pleads no contest to 23 felony counts in court on Nov. 15, 2013. (Credit: pool)

Mark Berndt, who taught at Miramonte Elementary School, was charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct. He had previously entered a plea of not guilty.

Berndt, 62, was arrested in January 2012 after allegedly submitting objectionable photos to a drugstore for development. An employee notified authorities that the images showed children blindfolded, some with tape over their mouths.

An investigation later found that, as part of a “tasting game,” Berndt had given his students cookies laced with bodily fluids, authorities said.

The plea deal between Berndt and prosecutors, which was accepted Friday by Judge George Lomeli, will prevent Berndt’s alleged victims from having to testify at a trial.

“We are happy that twenty-three child victims will not have to come forward and deal with the trauma,” a member of the prosecution team said in court.

A Miramonte parent on Thursday criticized the plea deal.

“It’s unfair, especially for all the families and children that he did affect,” said Norberto Mata. “I really think he should receive more time in there.”

In a statement at district headquarters Friday, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy noted that Berndt has not apologized for his crimes.

“I, for one, am very sorry that we had to go through this,” Deasy said. “My heartfelt apology is offered to all of us for the pain we have endured for that last two years.”

He noted a variety of reforms made since the scandal came to light, but said he was “angry” about those who have resisted changes that would allow individuals such as Berndt to be fired more easily.

“LAUSD spent $40,000 to end his challenge to our recommendation to fire him. I want
our $40,000 back,” Deasy said.

Dozens of civil claims against the district from Miramonte families remain unresolved; Deasy said the district is focused on finding resolution in those cases.

KTLA’s Melissa Pamer contributed to this report.

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