LOS ANGELES (AP) — For decades, Robert Pimentel was a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. During that time he raised a family, coached soccer and avoided problems with the law.
But police said during the last school year, Pimentel fondled some of his female students at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School and even a co-worker that led to his arrest this week.
On Thursday, the 57-year-old appeared in court and didn't enter a plea. His attorney maintained the 15 felony counts his client is facing are false.
"If you look at the record, before this, Pimentel has had a pretty exemplary life," said his lawyer Richard Knickerbocker. "He has no arrest record, for anything."
It took nearly a year to bring charges against Pimentel and the investigation began just weeks after the arrest of another Los Angeles elementary school teacher, Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct involving students.
Following that scandal, the district mandated that parents be notified within 72 hours of a report of a suspected abuser, and that each case be reviewed by several human resources staffers to ensure it is reported to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
District officials vowed to investigate molestation claims and move quickly to remove suspected teachers from classrooms while investigations are ongoing which apparently occurred in Pimentel's case.
Police were contacted in March by the parents of five students who said Pimentel had touched their children inappropriately. District officials immediately removed him from campus and notifications were sent out.
More than 70 interviews were conducted during the police investigation, and 20 female students were found to have been victimized, Los Angeles police Capt. Fabian Lizarraga said. Another victim was a female teacher who complained that Pimentel had inappropriately touched her, police said.
The alleged abuse occurred in Pimentel's fourth-grade classroom during school hours and in some cases was witnessed by other students, Lizarraga said. The sexual abuse involved fondling over and underneath clothing, he said.