After an attorney who represents families suing LAUSD over sexual abuse allegations renewed his calls for a federal investigation Friday, the FBI issued a statement saying it was not looking into the case.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Friday that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was the only agency investigating allegations of sexual abuse against students by teacher Mark Berndt at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles.
Miramonte Abuse Scandal: Timeline, Articles, Videos
Earlier Friday, attorney Brian Claypool conducted a press conference to call attention to his request for a federal investigation. Showing a June 5 letter he received from the FBI stating the agency wanted more information, Claypool said a federal investigation was imminent.
"We've been in touch with them. They're very close to doing a federal investigation. They need additional information," Claypool said.
The FBI's initial June 5 response to Claypool said its Crimes Against Children Unit has "reviewed the information you provided and determined that this information may warrant additional investigation."
At his Pasadena press conference, Claypool urged victims' families to contact the FBI.
But a statement from FBI spokeswoman Laura Eilmiller issued later Friday contradicted Claypool's claim that the agency was close to investigating.
"The FBI has consulted with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department concerning the alleged crimes at the Miramonte School in South Los Angeles to determine whether prosecution is warranted at the federal or state level, or both, based on the evidence available to investigators," read the statement issued by Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office.
"At this time, prosecution is being pursued solely by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the investigative agency is the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "
Eimiller's statement added the FBI had provided "forensic assistance" to local investigators in this case.
Berndt has pleaded not guilty to 23 felonies for lewd acts with children aged 7 to 10 years old – charges that have turned a spotlight on how the massive school district handles allegations of abuse. Berndt, 61, is being held at the Men's Central Jail in downtown LA on $23 million bail.
Claypool had previously requested that the office of state Attorney General Kamala Harris conduct an independent investigation – a request he said was rebuffed.
Claypool represents 11 alleged victims of abuse at Miramonte Elementary in one of several lawsuits filed against Los Angeles Unified School District. His suit, filed in May, is one of several that are seeking redress from the district in relation to the alleged crimes at the school.
At the press conference Friday, Claypool compared the situation at Miramonte to the sexual abuse crimes at Pennsylvania State University. He said he wanted the former FBI director Louis Freeh – who Thursday issued a scathing report on Penn State's handling of allegations against coach Jerry Sandusky – to investigate LAUSD.
"Call Mr. Freeh. He's available," Claypool said he would tell LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.