(LOS ANGELES) — Bail was raised on a third-grade teacher from Los Angeles accused of molesting school kids, making it virtually impossible for him to leave his prison cell before he faces trial.
In his first appearance since being arrested, 61-year-old Mark Berndt learned from a judge on Wednesday that his bail was increased from $2.3 million to $23 million.
Berndt is alleged to have committed lewd acts on 23 children in his classroom at Miramonte Elementary School between 2008 and 2010. Since being taken into custody, five more alleged victims have come forward to speak to authorities.
According to court papers, Berndt allegedly engaged children, ages 6 to 10, in a tasting game whereby he would blindfold and sometimes gag the youngsters. They were given a substance and asked to describe it as salty or sweet.
Investigators said that DNA evidence shows the substance was Berndt’s semen.
He was busted when a worker at a film processing outlet turned over photos of the alleged abuse to police. In addition, Berndt reportedly let Madagascar cockroaches crawl on some of the youngsters’ faces.
Prosecutors said if Berndt is convicted, he could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sarah Jorgensen and Nicole Chavez, CNN
Eli Watkins, CNN
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Selena Larson and Samuel Burke, CNN