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Substitute teacher pleads not guilty to child porn charges
Facing two counts of possessing child pornography, a North Bend man pleaded not guilty in an arraignment Monday, July 2, in King County Superior Court.
Theodore Bernstein, 64, was arrested by King County Sheriff’s Deputies on Friday, June 15, for Investigation of Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct. Court documents say police had been investigating Bernstein since May 11, when they received a tip that he had posted a link to a suspicious website on his Facebook page. Police notified the Snoqualmie Valley School District that they were investigating Bernstein, and the district removed him from the substitute list.
When police contacted him, Bernstein at first denied having a Facebook page, or ever looking at child pornography, according to the court papers which detailed several conversations Bernstein had with police during that day. He later admitted that the page was his, but maintained his denial of posting the link, documents stated. The website had images of pre-pubescent girls dressed in swimsuits and lingerie, but was not sexually explicit. Bernstein’s Facebook page indicated that he “liked” the website.
Later in the day, Bernstein contacted police again, according to Deputy Chris Knudsen’s Certification for Determination of Probable Cause. He had just turned over his two computers, an iMac and a Macbook Air, and several CDs, to North Bend Police Chief Mark Toner, and wanted to discuss his situation.
At that time, Knudsen wrote, Bernstein admitted that he had viewed pornographic images of children on his computer but not the laptop. He had downloaded images, but no videos.
Also, “He said that since he was doing it in the privacy of his own home, he thought it was okay, although part of him knew it was wrong,” Knudsen wrote.
Police found many sexually explicit images of young children on the computer and the DVDs, and multiple text files on the DVDs, that “contained pedophilic poetry, stories or ramblings,” with “themes of cruelty, violence and decapitation of children,” Knudsen wrote.
Since suspending Bernstein, the Snoqualmie Valley School District also began an internal investigation on whether any students had had inappropriate contact with the teacher, Superintendent Joel Aune said. He spoke in response to a parent’s concern about the teacher at the June 28 school board meeting, saying, “To date, there’s no indication whatsoever that any of our students were put in harm’s way. That certainly does not excuse the individual’s behavior, however in regard to what the school district can control and what we have access to in terms of our investigation, we have done, and completed our investigation.”
The district’s conclusion matched that of the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“There’s no indication (Bernstein) was taking pictures of students,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindi West told the Record. “Rather, he collected material from other websites. He was not distributing pornography.”