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Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt pleads not guilty (updated)

Accused teacher Mark Berndt.
Accused teacher Mark Berndt.
L.A. Sheriff's Department

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Former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, looking disheveled but confident, pleaded not guilty in court today on charges of committing lewd acts against 23 children from 2005 to 2010.

The former teacher is charged with taking bizarre, bondage-style photographs of his grade-school students in a case that has brought shock and outrage to LAUSD.

Berndt, who was a teacher for more than 30 years at Miramonte Elementary, has been jailed since his Jan. 31 arrest. 

His attorney, Victor Acevedo, made three requests at the arraignment – to reduce Berndt's  $23 million bail; to get a full copy of the district attorney's file on the investigation into Berndt, including all 600 photographs depicting Berndt's alleged crimes; and to ensure that Berndt is treated fairly in jail, where Acevedo alleges sheriff's deputies have called Berndt a child molester over a loud speaker.

"We cannot have the sheriff's department deputies acting in such a way to, essentially, put a bulls-eye on his head," said Acevedo.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said this is the first he’s heard about such behavior among jail deputies. He added that the department launched an internal affairs investigation into the matter as soon as it heard the news. 

A new court date is set for March 28.