Melody Suzanne Lippert, Michelle Louise Ghirelli No Longer Accused of Sex with Students
Melody Lippert (left) and Michelle Ghirelli only face misdemeanors now.
Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department
The bigger news is not what two high school teachers are being charged with (contributing to the delinquency of a minor by illegally providing alcohol to a group of underage students at San Clemente State Beach) but what they are not being accused of (engaging in sex or sex acts with the teen males).
"The Orange County District Attorney's Office reviewed the evidence regarding the allegations of sexual assault and found there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any other charges against the defendants," reads a statement the agency sent over Wednesday afternoon that does add this: "The investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be filed at a later date."
For now, Melody Suzanne Lippert, 38, of Covina, and Michelle Louise Ghirelli, 30, of West Covina, are each charged with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which can still bring a year in jail with a conviction. They are scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.
Lippert, a teacher at South Hills High School in West Covina, is accused of organizing a camping trip that had not been sanctioned by her school or the Covina-Valley Unified School District, according to the OCDA. It is further alleged she sent a group text message inviting Ghirelli, a district employee, and five male high school students to join her under the stars.
"Between Dec. 27, 2014, and Dec. 29, 2014, the defendants are accused of camping with the five students at San Clemente Beach and illegally distributing alcohol to the underage students throughout the duration of the trip," the OCDA claims.
Not to downplay those allegations, a more serious case was being worked by investigators after the Covina-Valley Unified School District contacted the West Covina Police Department, which in turn reported the accusations against Lippert and Ghirelli to the Orange County Sheriff's Department last month.
Sheriff's spokesman Jeff Hallock said at the time that Lippert allegedly met a group of male South Hills High School students at San Clemente State Beach in November, plying them with alcohol and having sex with one minor boy. Several weeks later--presumably the dates contained in the current OCDA case--Lippert and Ghirelli met the same high school students at the same spot in San Clemente, with both adults engaging in sexual relations with two male minors, Hallock had said.
Lippert was originally arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and Ghirelli was popped for alleged oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor, Hallock said.
The sex was not disputed, but "there were so many explanations why she (Ghirelli) thought (the alleged victim) was 18," Deputy District Attorney Kristin Bracic told City News Service, adding the boy was "months away" from turning 18.
A spokeswoman for the school district reported that Ghirelli and Lippert had been put on paid administrative leave after their arrests. Their currently employment status is unknown.
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