INDIO, Calif. - A Palm Springs High School teacher accused of molesting at least one male student pleaded not guilty today to sodomy and other sexual offenses and was ordered into custody.
Ronald Steven Bishop was initially charged Wednesday with four counts, and prosecutors today added five more charges against the 41-year-old Indio resident.
He now faces two counts of sodomy, one count each of oral copulation with a child under 16, unlawful bodily injury/sexual penetration by means of force, committing a lewd act on a child under 16, contacting a minor with intent to commit crimes and bringing child pornography into the state -- all felonies -- plus one misdemeanor count each of molesting a child under 18 and possession of material showing minors in sex acts.
Bishop, who had been free on a $150,000 bond, had his bail increased to $1 million by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Johnson. He is due back in court on April 19 for a felony settlement conference.
Bishop was taken into custody Jan. 17 in the school parking lot at 2401 E. Baristo Road. Police had received a report a few days earlier about a "child annoyance" claim involving a 15-year-old boy, and learned the suspect was one of the teen's teachers at the school, Palm Springs police Sgt. Mike Kovaleff said.
"(Police) learned that Bishop was suspected of communicating via text messaging with the 15-year-old victim over a period of nearly two months," Kovaleff said. "The text messaging included harmful matter that Bishop is suspected of sending in an attempt to seduce the minor."
According to an affidavit attached to a search warrant for Bishop's home, the boy was having problems with his parents' divorce and Bishop told the teen he could talk to him about it. They began communicating through Facebook and text messages, and Bishop allegedly sent him messages about topics including masturbation.
Bishop also allegedly invited the boy to his house -- he never went -- offered him rides and gave him a PlayStation game. The boy maintained that the only physical contact he had with Bishop was a hug, according to the affidavit.
The Riverside County District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to queries regarding the case, including whether the sexual contact charges involved the 15-year-old student or whether additional alleged victims had been located.
Palm Springs Unified School District spokeswoman Joan Boiko said Bishop was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. He had taught language arts at Palm Springs High since 2006 and at Nellie N. Coffman Middle School in Cathedral City from 2004 to 2006, she said.