Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the trial of a Palm Springs High School teacher accused of sexually assaulting two boys and trying to seduce another student with games and other favors.
Ronald Steven Bishop, 44, could face life in prison if convicted of 43 felony charges, including sodomy of a minor, lewd acts on a child under 16 years old, forced penetration resulting in bodily injury and performing sex acts on an unconscious victim.
Testimony in his two-week trial concluded Tuesday, and the prosecution and defense delivered closing statements today, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Samuel Diaz sent jurors behind closed doors to begin weighing Bishop's fate.
According to the District Attorney's Office, the defendant's alleged offenses came to light in early 2013 after a former student revealed that Bishop had been pursuing him with frequent online communications, text messages and offers of assistance.
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The boy, whose name was not disclosed, told investigators that he became close to the English teacher after his parents began divorce proceedings.
The defendant expressed an interest in helping the youth cope with the family split, leading to regular conversations via instant messaging and texts, which numbered in the thousands, according to police.
Bishop bought the boy a PlayStation game and took him to different locations when the victim had no other means of transportation.
Prosecutors allege that the former teacher sent explicit pictures and raised the topic of masturbation with the teenager, who indicated that he and the defendant were not intimate.
However, two other boys, whose names also were not released, alleged that Bishop had engaged in sex acts with them, including when they were under the influence and not aware of what was happening, according to the prosecution.
After serving a search warrant at Bishop's Indio residence, investigators seized more than 150 VHS tapes and three-dozen DVDs containing child and adult pornography, police said.
One tape purportedly showed the defendant molesting one of the victims, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The offenses occurred in 2012. Bishop was arrested in the high school parking lot on Baristo Road in January 2013.
He was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case, according to the Palm Springs Unified School District.
Bishop had taught language arts at Palm Springs High since 2006 and at Nellie N. Coffman Middle School in Cathedral City from 2004 to 2006.
Bishop is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
Deliberations were to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.