Former Teacher Sentenced In Molestation Cases

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A former teacher, who pleaded no contest to charges that he molested two 9-year-old girls in 1988, was sentenced Monday to 180 days in jail and ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John S. Fisher gave 55-year-old Mark Walter Sonnenburg credit for 180 days he had already served behind bars and told him that he will have to spend the next five years on formal probation.

Sonnenburg also will be required to not be alone with any children under 18 and attend counseling.

He pleaded no contest Feb. 22, to two counts of lewd act with a child.

“These crimes robbed me of a normal life as a carefree child, and a teenager that was free to fall in love and trust those around her. I have, for my entire life as I can remember it, been ashamed of myself for allowing this to have happened to me,” one of the victims said at a hearing in April.

The young woman called Sonnenburg a “predator” who preys on “vulnerable little girls.”

Another victim told the former teacher, “You stole a part of my childhood that I will never get back. You stole an innocence that I will never be able to let go of, and the only way I made it day to day was knowing that I would never give you the satisfaction of letting you think you won.”

“It may just be six months, but it’s a lifetime of people knowing what you did — a lifetime of child molester stamped across your forehead,” she said during the April 19, hearing. “You will never do what you love to do again — you will never teach — and that is happiness. Today is happiness for me.”

Authorities said one of the victims was a student at Eagle Rock Montessori School, where Sonnenburg taught at the time, but the crime did not occur at the school. The other girl was not a student.

The women reported the crimes to law enforcement in October 2007, and charges were filed against him just under a year later.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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