LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Unified School District was accused Monday of witness tampering in a case stemming from allegations of child molestation by a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.
Attorney Luis Carrillo represents more than 60 former students of Mark Berndt, the teacher who pleaded no contest to 23 counts of child annoyance and is now serving more than 40 years in state prison.
A judge Monday heard Carrillo’s arguments, claiming school district officials are trying to get a witness to “correct” statements linked to the troubled school. The claims were dismissed by the judge, citing lack of evidence.
In question is a declaration made by a school employee, Rosa Gianopoulos, who according to Carrillo made copies of what the district calls suspected child-abuse reports. Carrillo claims Gianopoulos was then ordered to change her story of what she found on those reports.
“Not only are they hiding information, they are trying to change the declaration of a school district employee,” Carrillo said.
“Last Thursday, the school district informed the court that they wanted to change that declaration because they believe that declaration contains errors. … I believe that they want to put falsehoods in her declaration. They’re trying to change her story, and now she’s ill,” he said.
According to court documents filed by the district, Gianopoulos became ill Monday and is too unwell to be questioned again.
Carrillo wants to know if Berndt’s name appeared in any of the documents she copied.
“What she put originally, apparently they didn’t like because probably it was the truth and their usual pattern is to lie and deceive the court and this is what they are trying to do again,” he said.
The judge ruled Monday that the district will be required to turn over a declaration from Gianopoulos next week.
The plaintiffs will have to take their case to a court of appeal to get any reports she copied.
A spokesman for the attorney’s office handling the case for the LAUSD said they are pleased with the ruling.
“You know, I think there are a whole multitude of issues brought up today. And we hope that we can get this one resolved as well,” the spokesman said.
Asked if a settlement in the case were possible, the spokesman declined to give a clear answer.
“You know, our hope is to get these trials focused and get them focused on the heart of the issues before them, and I think that the judge definitely helped clear that path today,” he said.
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