LAUSD Asks for “Gag Order” in Miramonte Trial

A spokesman for the district's law firm says the order would keep the case from being tried in the press.

Attorneys for the Los Angeles Unified School District filed a motion Wednesday to keep those involved in the case from making any public statements for the duration of the trial.

The case stems from allegations a former teacher spoon-fed his own bodily fluids to students while photographing them.

Plaintiffs in the civil case, including about 70 Miramonte Elementary School students, have filed suit against the district on claims it knew about the allegations against the teacher for more than 30 years and did nothing to keep him away from children.

Former teacher Mark Berndt was convicted nearly a year ago on charges of lewd acts with children.

As the case nears opening arguments, attorneys said a gag order would keep the case from being tried by public opinion.

In a statement from Sean Rossall, the public relations specialist hired by the law firms representing LAUSD, he said it is to "ensure that the case is argued in court, instead of through outside press conferences."

Earlier this week some of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case argued they would be against any gag order.

Judge John Shepard Wiley is expected to make a ruling on the order November 14th. All indications are that jury selection may begin the following Monday.

During a court hearing earlier this week, Wiley addressed concerns that he has repeatedly denied requests that cameras be allowed in the courtroom.

"It became an infomercial," he said in open court, adding that the media attention on the case appeared to lead some attorneys to "make a show" for the camera. But the judge also said that he believed the public's access to this particular case was important.

Attorneys for LAUSD argued against some aspects of media coverage in the trial. Attorney Wayne Mason of the Sedgwick Lawfirm out of Texas, spoke against certain attorneys "feeding the media" with information from the case.

"Not to limit the media," Mason said, "but because the case must be tried in the courtroom, the time is now that lawyers should speak in the courtroom to the jury only until the end of trial."

But attorney Luis Carrillo, who represents some of the Miramonte victims, said the request for a gag order is more about public relations for the district than legal maneuvering.

"The LAUSD is afraid that the community will learn the full truth about the 30 years that the LAUSD did not protect the children at Miramonte Elementary School," Carrillo said in an email to NBC4.

"The LAUSD is also worried about recent testimony from its own employees about the destruction of documents, about "hiding" of evidence, and about files and folders that have been moved from their original location in the LAUSD server, and now cannot be found - they do not want the message sent, so they want to gag the messenger "

Contact Us