A former Los Angeles teacher pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he sexually abused several of his students.
Robert Pimentel, 57, of Newport Beach, appeared in a Long Beach courtroom Thursday afternoon and entered his not guilty plea. Pimentel is charged with seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with children younger than 14 and with eight felony counts of continuous sexual abuse involving eight victims. Police suspect there may be at least 20 victims.
Outside the courtroom, his attorney Richard Knickerbocker said Pimentel is "absolutely innocent."
Pimentel's lawyer described the touching as appropriate, and that it falls under the district's no touching policy.
In one instance, Pimental hugged a girl and "gave her a kiss on the forehead," Knickerbocker said.
He likened the accusations to the McMartin Preschool abuse case, in which accusations and arrests were made, but no one was convicted.
He described the allegations of lewd acts as "no touching of any private parts. Outside patting across the back."
"Right now, we have accusations," Knickerbocker said. "That's all. We have no indication of probable cause."
Pimentel, 57, was arrested Wednesday by Los Angeles police detectives, who had launched an investigation in March after several fourth-grade girls said they had been inappropriately touched.
Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy acknowledged Thursday that allegations against Pimentel also arose in 2002 and 2008, but that the district has no record that the allegations went beyond the schools where Pimental worked at the time.
Both Pimentel and the school's principal, Irene Hinojosa, were immediately removed when the district found out about the allegations in March.
Deasy said he removed the principal because he was "dissatisfied" with how the situation was handled at the school.
This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Adolfo Flores.