The Latest | Southern California breaking news and trends

Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt pleads not guilty (updated)

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

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.


Add your comments

5-year-old victim of mother's alleged attempted drowning still on life support

Neighbors, led by Pastor Joyce Williams, second from left, prayed last Wednesday outside the home where a mother allegedly drowned her 1-year-old and attempted to drown her 5-year-old daughter.
Nick Ut/AP

A 5-year-old whose mother is charged with her attempted drowning and the drowning of her 1-year-old sister has not been been taken off life support, LAPD said this morning. Various news organizations, citing law enforcement sources, had been reporting that she was taken off life support and she was dead.

The girls' father, Jose Humberto Lopez, told ABC7 that he planned to take the girl off life support and hoped some good would come from the situation because he had decided to donate the 5-year-old's organs for transplant.

The girls' mother, Lorna Valle, 32, was charged with murder and attempted murder Friday and is being held on $1.5 million bail. She will face a second count of murder if her 5-year-old dies.

Lopez told police he found his wife trying to drown the girls in a tub when he returned home from a store Wednesday morning.


Add your comments

Despite initial appearances, a newborn girl wasn't abandoned outside Long Beach gas station

We encountered a problem, and this photo is currently unavailable.

It turns out a newborn baby girl wasn't abandoned outside a Southern California gas station after all. 

Long Beach police spokeswoman Lisa Massacani says investigators believe the baby's mother either called 911 herself or she gave the newborn to the woman who earlier claimed she found the baby.

An alleged passer-by first told discovered the baby around 7:30 p.m. Monday outside a USA Gas station near downtown Long Beach. The baby was taken to a hospital, where her vital signs were stable.

Police now think the baby was born several hours before the 911 call was made. Massacani says the mother also has been transported to a hospital for treatment. Massacani says the woman may face child abuse charges, but she did not elaborate.



Add your comments

Albert Pujols appears at spring training, promptly gets first fine

Los Angeles Angels' Albert Pujols listens to a question during a news conference after a baseball spring training workout Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Tempe, Ariz.
Morry Gash/AP

The L.A. Times reports that more than 200 fans turned out to watch Pujols during his first informal workout with the Angels in Tempe, Ariz. Pujols joined the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in December after spending almost a dozen seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Along with helping to win last year’s World Series for that team, he maintained a high profile in its home city. Pujols told reporters that he plans to keep that going in Anaheim.

"You know it’s something that I don’t want to change. I did that and I’ve been doing that in the city of St. Louis and through my foundation. And that’s something that I’m going to bring to Anaheim and to this organization. So just because I’m in a different ballclub, I don't want to change the way I am," he said.

Pujols signed a $250 million contract to join the Angels, but the team has already subtracted a very small portion of that.The star says he got his first fine Monday after his phone rang in the clubhouse. Whoops. 


Add your comments

Jonathan Gold leaves LA Weekly to go back to LA Times

Jonathan Gold in the L.A. Weekly offices in 2007 celebrating his Pulitzer Prize. He remains the only food critic to have won the honor.
Kevork Djansezian/AP

After a bit of back and forth between LA Observed and the Village Voice today, the L.A. Weekly itself reported it was losing Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold to his old employer, the L.A. Times.

The Weekly's Sarah Fenske writes:

"We're sad to see him go, as Gold is not only the first — and only — food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize (in 2007), but a brilliant writer and intrepid explorer of the L.A. culinary scene. We wish we could have kept him. Hell, we tried to keep him. But time marches on. He's been here since 1982, for God's sake. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures."

The Wrap gives a short review of Gold's career thus far:

"Gold started at the Weekly in 1982, starting his now iconic “Counter Intelligence” column in 1986. He moved to the Times in 1990, later worked as Gourmet magazine’s New York restaurant critic and came back to the Weekly in 2001."


Add your comments