A former U.S. teacher pleaded not guilty to lewd acts with children Tuesday for allegedly photographing blindfolded students with roaches on their faces, and spoons of semen to their mouths.
And a lawyer for Mark Berndt the 61-year-old was at risk of harm in prison, with "a bull's eye on his head" after fellow inmates were told his alleged crimes and his location.
Berndt, who taught for more than 30 years at an elementary school in east Los Angeles, faces multiple charges of committing lewd acts on nearly two dozen children aged between 7-10 years old at the time.
Berndt, who pleaded not guilty to committing lewd acts, remains in jail in lieu of $23 million bail -- and his lawyer lashed out at what he said were actions which put his client at risk from other prisoners.
"The sheriff's department in Twin Towers (prison), which is where my client is currently housed, has essentially used the speaker system, the loud speaker system, to identify him as a child molester to other inmates," he said.
"We cannot have the sheriff's department deputies acting in such a way to essentially put a bull's eye on his head, so to speak ..My understanding is that it did name the particular dorm where he was at," he added.
Berndt was removed from teaching duty as soon as the allegations surfaced in January 2011, after more than 40 photos of children in a classroom, with blindfolds and tape covering their mouths, were reported by a film processor.
Berndt had his arm around the children or a hand over their mouths, according to a statement by the LA Sheriff's Department.
Some of the photos "depicted girls with what appeared to be a blue plastic spoon, filled with an unknown clear/white liquid substance, up to their mouths as if they were going to ingest the substance," it said.
DNA tests concluded the substance was Berndt's semen. "There are also photos of children with large live Madagascar-type cockroaches on their faces and mouths," said the statement.
More than 100 similar photos were found at his home, while police also "recovered was a DVD of film depicting adult sexual bondage activity which mirrored the bondage-type photos of the children."
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