Thomas Beltran, the Lincoln Middle School teacher who was arrested for child molestation on Saturday, May 3, appeared in court for arraignment on Tuesday, May 6, and his bail was increased to $3.3 million. His lawyer, Robert Burke, requested that the arraignment be continued to June 6, and so Beltran did not enter a plea at the hearing.
The Santa Monica Police Department earlier reported that on Friday, May 2, SMPD detectives interviewed a 12-year-old girl, accompanied by her parents, who told the detectives she had been molested by a teacher assigned to Lincoln Middle School, a facility of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), and located at 1401 California Avenue in Santa Monica. “During the interview with the victim, it became clear that there are possibly additional victims,” said SMPD Lt. Alex Padilla as spokesman for the department.
Detectives working closely with SMMUSD representatives were able to identify the teacher as 60-year-old Thomas Arthur Beltran, a Los Angeles resident who has taught at Lincoln for 20 years and has been with the school district nearly 30 years.
On Saturday, May 3, detectives arrested Beltran in the 6100 block of Centinela Avenue in Culver City; he was booked at the Santa Monica jail for child molestation.
At a news conference on Sunday, May 4, Lt. Padilla said that three other Beltran victims had been identified and that in at least one of the four cases there had been “ongoing lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor for over a year.” At Tuesday’s court hearing, it was disclosed that five alleged victims, all girls under 14 years of age, had been identified.
When Beltran’s lawyer argued for a reduction of the original $1.1 million bail at Tuesday’s hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz noted that there were 14 charges pending against the defendant (five alleged victims with multiple charges per victim) and that each charge carried a potential sentence of 15 years to life. Ordinarily where a life sentence is involved, the judge said, bail of $1 million per charge is imposed; he therefore accepted the District Attorney’s recommendation of $3.3 million bail rather than ordering a reduction.
Deputy District Attorney Robin Sax Katzenstein said that there was videotape of at least one instance of molestation, and the judge said that the evidence “suggests serial molestation” and that authorities “anticipate interviewing substantially more victims.”
At Sunday’s news conference, SMPD’s Padilla called upon the public to report any similar incidents to SMPD detectives at 310.458.8451 (M – F, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) 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 800.78.CRIME (27463).