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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Teacher Arrested And Charged With Molesting Five Students

Thomas Beltran, a teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, CA., was arrested and charged with molesting 5 female students. The District Attorney's Office announced he is being charged with 14 counts, eight being lewd acts on a child.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office made the announcement Tuesday that Beltran was being charged with 14 counted, eight of them being lewd acts on a child and he was arraigned on Tuesday afternoon, where he plead not guilty.

Deputy District Attorney Robin Sax Katzenstein, who is assigned to the case, told the court she had videotape showing Beltran molesting a girl in his classroom.

His not guilty plea is unrealistic since the prosecutor, Katzenstein, told the court they have a video of the suspect molesting a girl in his classroom.

Judge Keith Schwartz raised Beltran's bail to $3.3 million at the prosecutor's request. If convicted, Beltran, 60, faces up to life in prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Beltran was arrested and booked at the Santa Monica jail and held on statutory $1.1 million bail, on Saturday, and had been teaching English as a second language at the time of his arrested and had worked at Lincoln Middle School for two decades.

An interesting aspect of this case stems from something the school officials told a group of concerned parents at a last minute meeting set up so that Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, law enforcement and the Santa Monica school's officials outline the facts and offer support, where Tristan Komlos, the Lincoln school principal, told everybody, "We are in a state of shock, dismay and confusion but we wanted to give you this information. We want to come together as stakeholders in the [Lincoln Middle School] community to best support our students and each other in this difficult situation."

The reason that is interesting is because further research shows that in 2006 there was a complaint leveled against Beltran, which was never fully examined.

The president of Santa Monica's school board said Thursday that a "breakdown in communication" prevented the board from fully examining a 2006 complaint against a teacher who was charged this week with molesting five of his female students.

Oscar de la Torre, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board, said he and other board members learned about the 2006 complaint only this week after Lincoln Middle School teacher Thomas Arthur Beltran, 60, was arrested. De la Torre said then-Principal Kathy Scott, who reported the allegations to police, is no longer with the district.

Also according to De la Torre, "There was a transition in leadership, and I think the communication [channels] suffered a breakdown. The school board was never alerted to the allegations in 2006."

There is no mention of the 2006 complaint in Beltran's personnel file.

The previous complaint didn't provide enough evidence to be prosecuted, although the child was removed from Beltran's class and at the time Beltran said his actions were "misinterpreted" and he was warned not to touch female students.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office says that police are also questioning at least five other students who claimed that Beltran sexually molested them, some of those allegations go back to 1998.

According to court documents, the alleged abuse of the students took place between Dec. 1, 2004, and April 30 of this year. Police said that at least one incident was recorded on a videotape that was discovered during the investigation. Police will be contacting former students of Beltran as far back as possible, but the statute of limitations allows charges to be filed only in incidents since May 1998, said Santa Monica Police Lt. Darrell Lowe.

The school district is discussing policy changes to make sure that reports get fully investigated by the school board in the future.

The Santa Monica's police press release can be found here and in it we see one of the complainants is a 12 year old girl that told police she had been molested by Beltran.

This is an ongoing investigation and anyone with additional information is encouraged to call the Santa Monica Police Department Detectives at (310) 458-8451 (M – F, 8 AM – 5 PM) or the Communications Center at (310) 458-8491 (during non-business hours). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous may call the SMPD Detectives Tip Line at (310) 458-8449 or the WeTip hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463).