Judge rules search was legal in Atascadero teacher child porn case

Chris Berdoll

A former Atascadero teacher who is accused of taking upskirt photos and videos of young females students has failed in his bid to throw out much of the prosecution’s evidence on the grounds it was obtained via a warrantless search and seizure. [Tribune]

Chris Lynn Berdoll, 51, is facing a combined total of 44 counts of possession and production of child pornography. Berdoll was a sixth grade teacher at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, where he allegedly filmed girls’ legs, butts and crotches.

Prosecutors allege Berdoll victimized 20 children, six of whom are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed last year against the Atascadero Unified School District.

According to the suit, Berdoll would ask the girls to help him straighten up the classroom and to have lunch with him. While alone with the students, Berdoll would upskirt the girls and have students pose or model for him, the suit alleges.

If students declined his invitations, Berdoll would allegedly follow them to the playground with his electronic devices. In some cases, Berdoll photoshopped himself having sex with images of his students, according to the lawsuit.

Last November, Ilan Funke-Bilu, Berdoll’s attorney, filed two motions seeking to suppress all evidence investigators obtained from his client’s cell phone and smart watch. The motions also attempted to prevent prosecutors from presenting as evidence statements made by Berdoll and observations made by the arresting officers. 

According to Funke-Bilu’s first motion, on Aug. 30, 2018, an Atascadero detective stopped Berdoll’s vehicle while he was surveilling the teacher. The detective, along with a patrol officer, detained Berdoll. The patrol officer confiscated Berdoll’s phone and watch.

Meanwhile, a second detective was attempting to get a search warrant signed by a judge.

Officers detained Berdoll outside his vehicle without arresting him for approximately 77 minutes, doing so under the pretense that the second detective wanted to speak to him, Funke-Bilu stated.

The second detective did not obtain the warrant until nearly an hour after Berdoll was initially detained. The detective who obtained the warrant arrived at the scene about 78 minutes after officers stopped Berdoll, according to the defense motion.

Funke-Bilu filed a second motion requesting a judge strike each of the 20 possession of child pornography charges Berdoll is facing. Each of the 20 counts resulted from a search of Berdoll’s computers and hard drives on the day he was detained, the defense attorney argued.

At the conclusion of a two-day hearing spread across two weeks, San Luis Obispo Judge Jesse Marino ruled on Thursday that Atascadero police conducted a legal search. 

Marino stated in his ruling there was urgency due to the possibility evidence would be destroyed in some way and that 77 minutes was not too long of a period of time for officers to detain Berdoll given the circumstances. The judge said Atascadero investigators saw Berdoll was on the move, and they moved diligently to obtain the search warrant.

Following Marino’s ruling, Funke-Bilu indicated he plans to file one last legal challenge. The case is now nearing trial.

Berdoll has remained out of SLO County Jail after posting $500,000 bail. Berdoll faces up to three years in prison for each of the 44 counts with which he is charged.

Please, be respectful of others. Attack ideas, not users. Personal insults, shill or troll accusations, hate speech, and other uncivil comments will be removed. The comments posted represent the opinion of the writer and do not represent the views or policies of the website.

Leave a Reply