UPDATE NO. 2, MARCH 4, 1:32 P.M.: Melody Suzanne Lippert and Michelle Louise Ghirelli pleaded not guilty today to felony sex charges. Bail was set at $50,000 for Ghirelli and $20,000 for Lippert, and both are due back in court April 15 for a hearing on a defense motion seeking records from the school district investigation.
UPDATE NO. 1, MARCH 4, 9:41 A.M.: A Covina Valley Unified School District probe into an overnight camping party involving a female high school teacher, a female district employee and five underage male students uncovered cocaine use that led to further investigation by law enforcement and the resulting filing of more serious felony charges against Melody Suzanne Lippert and Michelle Louise Ghirelli, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA). Deputy District Attorney Kristin Bracic called 38-year-old Lippert, who taught at the boys' South Hills High School in West Covina, the alleged "matchmaker" who organized the unapproved trip to San Clemente State Beach Dec. 27-29 through a group text message/invitation to 30-year-old Ghirelli and the teens. Bracic claims that cell phone records indicate Ghirelli knew the boy she had sex with was 17. Lippert and Ghirelli were scheduled to be arraigned this morning.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 3, 6:03 A.M.: If you thought the Los Angeles County teachers who'd originally been arrested for allegedly having sex with students in San Clemente had escaped sex charges--perhaps based on my headline from last month "Melody Suzanne Lippert, Michelle Louise Ghirelli No Longer Accused of Sex with Students"--think again.
The Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) on Monday filed additional charges against Melody Suzanne Lippert, 38, of Covina, and Michelle Louise Ghirelli, 30, of West Covina.
Lippert, a teacher at South Hills High School in West Covina, faces felony unlawful sexual intercourse, felony furnishing a controlled substance to a minor and a sentencing enhancement for being four years or older than the minor--in addition to the original previous charge of misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Ghirelli, an employee of the Covina-Valley Unified School District that includes South Hills High, faces felony unlawful sexual intercourse, felony furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, felony oral copulation of a minor and a sentencing enhancement for being four years or older than the minor--in addition to the original previous charge of misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
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The pair were originally looking at a maximum of a year in jail each with convictions. Now Lippert could go to state prison for up to 10 years and six months and Ghirelli could earn 11 years and eight months in the joint with convictions. They are scheduled to be arraigned on the new count in Newport Beach on Wednesday, when Deputy District Attorney Kristin Bracic of the Sexual Assault Unit will request that their bail to be set at $50,000, according to the OCDA.
Originally, deputies and prosecutors said Lippert and Ghirelli had given five male high school students on a camping trip at San Clemente Beach alcohol, but the OCDA's new description of the encounter alleges the minors were given cocaine as well.
"At some point during the trip, Lippert is accused of facilitating Ghirelli's sexual relationship with 17-year-old John Doe. Ghirelli is accused of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with John Doe and orally copulating the victim," reads an OCDA statement.