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Former Miramonte teacher to plead no contest in molest case

Ex-Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt is expected to plead no contest to charges of child molestation.
November 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt is expected to plead no contest on Friday to charges he molested nearly two dozen students.

Berndt is facing 23 counts of committing lewd acts with children, ages 6 to 10 years old. He is accused of blindfolding students, covering their mouths with tape and placing items in front of their faces, including live cockroaches and a spoonful of his semen. The alleged abuses occurred between 2005 and 2011.

Parents at Miramonte Elementary feel a sense of satisfaction, knowing that Berndt is expected to plead no contest.

"He should be ashamed of what he did," said parent Jose Ruiz. "If that happened to my kid, I would go crazy about that. I hope he stays in jail for a really long time."

The attorney representing the young victims says with Berndt's expected no contest plea, his clients will not have to re-live the horrors and testify during a criminal trial.

"Children get re-traumatized when they have to face the person that did the harm. So this is good for the families. There will be closure at least in this criminal case," said attorney Luis Carrillo.

Berndt taught at Miramonte Elementary for 30 years. One of his former students says while he never did anything inappropriate to her, she's glad he's nowhere near her young daughter and that he's admitting to his crimes.

"I think it's wrong, but after all, he can't lie because God is looking at everything, so he can't get out of it. So I hope he gets extra time," said Janel Braccey.

While there is a sense of closure knowing that Berndt will be locked up for a long time, parents are not letting their guard down.

"I feel a little bit more comfortable about that, but you never know if there's someone else," said Sandy Fregoso, a parent.

Berndt faces at least 25 years in prison.


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