A 62-year-old man, who taught in the Los Angeles school district for 30 years, is expected to plead no contest Friday to charges he gave semen-laced cookies to elementary school students.
Mark Berndt was charged with the molestation of more than 20 students. He is accused of blindfolding students and spoon-feeding them semen-coated cookies during classroom “tasting games.”
An attorney for some of the victims said Thursday that Berndt will plead no contest to 23 charges during a Friday morning hearing. Berndt, who had complaints filed against him dating back to the 1990s, will be sentenced to 25 years in prison according to the plea agreement.
Prosecutors urged a plea deal over concerns “about re-traumatizing the children at trial.”
Authorities were tipped off when a drugstore photo technician developed dozens of pictures belonging to Berndt of blindfolded third-graders being fed from a spoon. Some students were photographed “bound and gagged,” CBS Los Angeles reported.
Investigators later found a plastic spoon in his classroom garbage can that tested positive for trace amounts of semen.
He was removed from his teaching position in January 2011, the Associated Press reported.
The school district received harsh criticism for allowing Berndt to continue teaching after complaints were brought against him in the 1990s, but the details of those complaints are unclear.
Dozens of suits were filed by victims. District spokesman Sean Rossall said 63 cases have been settled for $29.5 million, while 71 cases are still pending.
“We’re focused on the civil cases and settling them in a manner that is respectful of the health and educational needs of students and their families,” Rossall told the Associated Press.