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Teacher charged with molesting students

May 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office says a Santa Monica middle school teacher has been charged with sexually molesting five female students. A bail of $3.3 million was set by Judge Keith Schwartz in the arraignment of 60-year-old Thomas Beltran. Beltran entered a plea of not guilty in court Tuesday.

Click in the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Eyewitness News reports from Lincoln Middle School.

The veteran teacher who taught English as a second language at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica for two decades was arrested Saturday.

He has been charged with eight counts of committing a lewd act on a child and three counts each of continuous sexual abuse and sexual penetration of a foreign object on a child under 14.

Authorities say that the lewd acts took place during school hours.

"Students would come together, they'd write recipes, bring their home recipes to share with the entire community as an exercise for them to be able to translate their home experiences to English to help them learn the language," said Principal Tristan Komlos.

Principal Komlos says the teachers are stunned by what has happened.

The prosecution in court clearly stated that they have videotaped evidence of Beltran sexually assaulting one of the victims.

"There was a videotape that is helping our investigation and corroborating some of the charges in this case," said Robin Sax Katzenstein.

Beltran's attorney attempted to persuade the judge to lower the bail amount.

He cited Beltran's long history as a teacher and long roots to the community. He also presented letters of character from family and friends.

The judge concluded that due to the seriousness of the charges, the ages and number of victims, and the length of time over which the crimes took place, he could not drop the bail.

Prosecutor Robin Sax Katzenstein says the investigation is nowhere near being over. She says her office is currently interviewing two additional victims. They expect to hear from more victims over the next several days.

Beltran was arrested by Santa Monica police after a 12-year-old student came forward to allege she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her teacher in the classroom.

"It's frightening for our children and it's frightening for our parents, but I think that the staff response has been amazing," said parent Rebecca Kennerly.

Beltran is scheduled to appear in court again on June 6. The judge will hear the evidence once again. He will also hear the defense to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. Beltran faces up to life in prison if convicted.

If you have any information, you're asked to call the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8491.

Eyewitness News reporters Melissa MacBride and Jovana Lara contributed to this report.

 

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