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Former California Teacher Gets 80 Years to Life on Sex-Related Charges

Former California Teacher Gets 80 Years to Life on Sex-Related Charges

A gavel in a file photo. (Demetrius Freeman/Pool/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

10/18/2023

Updated: 10/18/2023

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LONG BEACH, Calif.—A former Long Beach teacher was sentenced Oct. 17 to 80 years to life in state prison on sex-related charges involving three victims, including two former students, with a judge calling the defendant a “predator.”
Mark Anthony Santo, 54, was convicted June 5 of two counts of lewd act on a child under 14 and one count each of forcible sexual penetration, forcible oral copulation, assault with intent to commit forcible oral copulation, and assault with intent to commit forcible penetration—the latter two of which were vacated because they involved the same conduct as the more serious charges.
“... You forced these young women to relive that behavior ... the molestations, the intimate details of what you did to them,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Laura Laesecke said, disputing the defendant’s insistence that he was a beloved teacher who had been wrongly accused.
The judge noted that the prosecution had offered Mr. Santo a plea deal carrying a 24-year prison sentence at one point and that she initially thought it was “maybe a bit high,” but she realized after hearing the evidence during the trial that it was “not enough.”
“You are a predator,” Ms. Laesecke told the defendant. “You are a danger to the community.”
The judge—who denied Mr. Santo’s motion for a new trial—said she thought it was “quite cowardly” for Mr. Santo to ask to leave the Long Beach courtroom as the three young women were set to give their victim impact statements. He was brought back into the Long Beach courtroom for the judge to impose the sentence.
One of the victims also called Mr. Santo a “predator,” saying what happened has “had a lifelong impact on me.”
“He made his own family think that an 11-year-old girl is a whore instead of a victim ... I was a child,” she said, telling the judge that Santo needs to be in prison “forever.”
Another of the victims said that part of her wants to talk with Mr. Santo and protect him and that she wished he had not decided to leave the courtroom as she and the other victims spoke.
“I wish I could say he has no power over me, but he really does,” she said, while at another point calling him “a predator” and “a weirdo” and saying she knew she had to say something.
A third young woman said she doesn’t think Mr. Santo realizes the impact of his actions. She said she was glad that she and the other victims were “able to get justice.”
Mr. Santo was initially charged in May 2020 with committing a lewd act at his home in La Mirada in 2015 with a 13-year-old girl who was a family friend. The District Attorney’s Office subsequently added charges involving the other two victims.
The prosecution alleged that Mr. Santo—who taught at Jordan High School and Lindbergh Middle School—inappropriately touched one of his students at the middle school during the 2012–13 school year and forced oral sex in 2018 on an 18-year-old woman who had been one of his students in the seventh grade, the Long Beach Post reported.
Mr. Santo testified in his own defense and denied any wrongdoing, according to the publication.
He was ordered to be taken into custody after the jury’s verdict and has remained behind bars since then.
The judge noted that Mr. Santo would be required to register as a sex offender if he is ever paroled from state prison.
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