Man faces jail for lewd ‘tasting game’
A former Los Angeles teacher charged with blindfolding students and spoon-feeding them cookies laced with his semen has agreed to plead no contest to all charges, an attorney for some of the victims said on Thursday.
Mark Berndt plans to enter the legal equivalent of guilty pleas to 23 charges at a hearing on Friday, according to John Manly, an attorney who represents 30 students and their parents. Manly said he was notified of the plea by prosecutors.
The plea agreement, first reported by the Daily News of Los Angeles, calls for Berndt to be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“He's going to jail essentially for the rest of his life,” Manly said of the 62-year-old Berndt. “You can't ask for more than that.”
He said prosecutors urged a plea deal because “they were concerned about re-traumatising the children at trial”.
The district attorney's office and Berndt's lawyer declined to comment.
Berndt taught at the South Los Angeles school for more than 30 years. The allegations against him came to light when a drugstore photo technician noticed dozens of odd photos of blindfolded third-graders and reported them to the authorities.
Investigators said they discovered a plastic spoon in Berndt's classroom trash bin. Tests found traces of semen on it.
Berndt was removed from the classroom in January 2011.
Dozens of lawsuits and claims were filed on behalf of victims. Sean Rossall, a school district spokesman, said 63 cases have been settled for a total of $29.5 million, and 71 are pending.
He said the district has not seen the plea agreement and won't comment until it's approved by a judge.
The case led to a wide-ranging overhaul of how the nation's second-largest school district handles allegations of sexual abuse after it was revealed that previous complaints about Berndt's behaviour were ignored.