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Public shouldn't pass judgment on Miramonte teacher, lawyer says

February 21, 2012 |  2:49 pm

Mark Berndt in court Feb. 21The attorney for Miramonte schoolteacher Mark Berndt, who is facing lewd conduct charges against children, urged the public and media to withhold judgment until all the facts are in.

Berndt pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges, and his attorney said the media circus that has formed around the case could be harmful.

"It doesn't help the attainment of the truth," said attorney Victor Acevedo. He said it's up to the courts to determine whether Berndt is guilty.

He also said that his client was being harassed at Twin Towers Jail by deputies there.

Acevedo, an attorney with the L.A. County public defender's office, said in court during Berndt's arraignment that jail staff publicly announced over a loudspeaker that Berndt was a child molester and named the dorm where he was being housed.

FULL COVERAGE: School sex abuse investigation

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore called the public defender’s allegations “completely inappropriate.”

“We don’t do that kind of thing, but we're going to do an investigation of it,” he said.

Whitmore said the public defender should have come to the Sheriff’s Department first with the allegations.

“It’s the first we’ve heard of it,” he said. “Nobody knows anything about this.”

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Jim Hellmold said the teacher “has never been in general population. He’s always been classified as a keep-away for security concerns.”

Berndt, 61, was charged last month with 23 counts of lewd acts. The investigation into Berndt began after a photo lab technician discovered snapshots in which children were allegedly bound and gagged, and in some, being spoon-fed a white liquid that is believed to be Berndt's semen.

ALSO:

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Woman faked story about abandoned baby, police say

Ex-Miramonte teacher pleads not guilty to lewd acts with students

-- Dalina Castellanos at L.A. County Superior Court and Robert Faturechi

Photo: Mark Berndt in court Tuesday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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