Reporting Charles Feldman
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Southland elementary school teacher arrested in connection with lewd conduct involving sexually suggesstive photos of his students was previously investigated for abuse nearly 20 years ago, sheriff’s officials said Thursday.
KNX 1070′s investigative reporter Charles Feldman reports the L.A. County Sheriff’s department has confirmed that it did investigate Mark Berndt in 1994.
Sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the case involved allegations that Berndt, 61, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified school district for nearly three decades, inappropriately touched a young, female student.
“The school did contact us and we did investigate it,” said Whitmore. “We prepared it, and when we were confident we had done our due diligence we gave it to the district atttorney’s office.”
A former student told KCAL9 that Berndt was “weird” and allegedly kept his hand “always in his lap” and “Vaseline in his drawer”.
Then-district attorney Gil Garcetti ultimately declined to file charges, Whitmore said.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigated allegations against Mark Berndt involving a September 1993 incident,” said district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. “After careful evaluation, it was determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove a crime occurred.”
“A prosecutor cannot ethically file criminal charges if the evidence fails to meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” she added.
Whitmore added that the district attorney’s office has the right along with the sheriff’s department to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to file actual charges.
Berndt is currently under investigation and being held on $23 million bail.