Teacher at Napa Christian faces sex charges

2011-07-27T20:15:00Z 2012-08-09T20:38:22Z Teacher at Napa Christian faces sex chargesKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
July 27, 2011 8:15 pm  • 

A Napa man who was a teacher in a local private school faces multiple sex charges in Napa County Superior Court in connection with an alleged incident in September 2010 involving a 15-year-old girl, according to court documents.

Michael Copithorne, 36, has been charged with oral copulation with a person under the age of 16 and three counts of lewd acts upon a child with special allegation, court records show. 

He was a teacher at Napa Christian, a K-12 Seventh-day Adventist school in Napa when the arrest warrant was issued in February, court documents indicate. 

Copithorne was charged in June and pleaded not guilty to all the charges on July 5. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday, though court records indicate the session may be continued. A pre-preliminary hearing is scheduled for today. 

According to police, Copithorne is suspected of picking up the 15-year-old girl near her house last September and driving her to the parking lot of a Napa grocery store, where he supposedly kissed the alleged victim and performed sex acts on her.

Deputy District Attorney Allison Haley declined to give details about the case, including whether the alleged victim was a student at his school. She would not say whether additional alleged victims are suspected.

It is unclear if Copithorne, a teacher at Napa Christian for more than 11 years, remains on staff. The school referred questions Wednesday to Albert Miller, Northern California Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists, who could not be reached for immediate comment.

Copithorne, a paraplegic from a 2000 snowboarding accident at Mammoth Mountain, also owns a fly fishing trip business “Off the Hook LLC,” court documents show.

He has lived most of his adult life in Angwin, his attorney, Thomas Gill of Vallejo, said in court documents.

Copithorne is out of Napa County Jail on $100,000 bail, court records show.

The prosecutor said she would not oppose a postponement of Friday’s preliminary hearing to decide if the case is to be sent to Superior Court for trial. 

In court records, the prosecution said it was in possession of hours of videotaped interviews, more than 300 text messages, photographs and videos.

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(31) Comments

  1. IslandGirl
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    IslandGirl - July 28, 2011 12:48 am
    Let us all remember as we comment on these allegations that they are only allegations and not proven truth. Mike Copithorne is an extremely well-liked and respected teacher, and I will keep him, his family, and his friends in my thoughts and prayers.
  2. leavintown
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    leavintown - July 28, 2011 6:11 am
    Where's his mug shot???
  3. firststreetmayor
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    firststreetmayor - July 28, 2011 8:35 am
    leavintown said on: July 28, 2011, 6:11 am
    Where's his mug shot???
    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
    Where's his mug shot is a good question ? if you go to his fly fishing web site the NVR article
    wrote about you can view his pic there. As far as a photo of his arrest mug shot, don't hold your breath.

  4. nibroc
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    nibroc - July 28, 2011 8:48 am
    It took long enough for this article to be written.
  5. Bauhausfan
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    Bauhausfan - July 28, 2011 9:51 am
    IslandGirl said: "Let us all remember as we comment on these allegations that they are only allegations and not proven truth. Mike Copithorne is an extremely well-liked and respected teacher, and I will keep him, his family, and his friends in my thoughts and prayers."

    Yes, and if your daughter was the one who was involved in this alleged incident with Mike you would have the same reaction.

  6. Kate Frederick
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    Kate Frederick - July 28, 2011 7:47 pm
    Just because an individual is convicted of a crime it does not mean that they are guilty. We should not automatically judge a person unless we know all of the facts. I am familiar with the situation and am completely convinced the Mike is innocent. I believe that he is the last person in the world who would commit this crime. My prayers are with you Mike and you have my complete support.
  7. incognito
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    incognito - July 28, 2011 7:56 pm
    Wow! This guy is married and has a beautiful wife and children. Let's wait and see what happens. The trial has been going on for awhile. May the guilty be charged and the innocent find peace!

    Before anyone makes a comment on the above, let me state why. Do you know that many children outthere will and have threaten their parents to call 911 and report torture and abuse if the parents force them to follow house rules or not allowed them to skip school? Do you know that even 8 year old children will share this "tips' with other children? Very dangerous statements and very manipulative children!
  8. Brian Kennedy
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    Brian Kennedy - July 28, 2011 8:42 pm
    leavintown said: "Where's his mug shot???"

    We are working to get the booking photo.
  9. mxrider226
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    mxrider226 - July 28, 2011 8:55 pm
    I have had the opportunity of knowing Mike Copithorne for the greater portion of my life and have always looked up to him with the utmost respect. Mike has always put others over himself and always made himself available to help others in anyway possible. I have spent time with Mike as a friend as well as a student of his, and his professionalism is clear in both situations. Mike Copithorne would not commit the acts that he has been accused of!
  10. Dana Koger
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    Dana Koger - July 28, 2011 9:44 pm
    I have known Mike for almost my entire life. He has been my hero for just as long. From the larger then life outdoors high school teen, to the amazing husband, father, and teacher he has become. I can honestly say that I don't know any other person who has been able to make it through what he has. Trials that have crushed some, Mike instead turned around and used to inspire those around him. This is one reason his students love him and look up to him so much. Knowing Mike, his love for his family, his love for his God, and his respect to all those he encounters (young & old, health & sick, popular or not), that kind of man doesn't fit into the picture being painted. Mike you're in my prayers!
  11. tkkm
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    tkkm - July 28, 2011 10:14 pm
    I have two daughters who attended Napa Christian from K - 12th grade. Both had Mr. Copithorne as a teacher during their Jr. High years. I have spent many hours on campus and have had many opportunities to observe Mike Copithorne with students. It is inconceivable that he is guilty of these charges. Of all the other parents and students who we know who are associated with the school, all are in support of Mike. We look forward to this court case so that there is an opportunity for the truth to come out and he can be cleared of all charges and have his life back.
  12. Mattyboy
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    Mattyboy - July 29, 2011 9:12 am
    I am a former student of mike copithorne and a friend of his. He is not the type of person that would do something like this. There was never a time while I was in school at napa christian that I ever saw anything or heard anything about mike that would make me think he would be capable of doing something like this. Mike is a good god fearing man who only has respect for others, and tries his best to make the world a better place. My prayers go out to everyone involved.
  13. ZacharyRoyce
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    ZacharyRoyce - July 29, 2011 3:48 pm
    leavintown said: "Where's his mug shot???" Brian Kennedy said: "We are working to get the booking photo."

    Anything to please the readers and sell papers. Whether or not it turns out that this guy did anything, he'll never be able to work as a teacher again because you are publicly branding him as a child molester. The same people who read the story, see his picture, tell their friends, etc. are not going to follow the details. They are just going to point at him when they see him and say 'that's the child molester.' Apparently, NVR has enough evidence, and thinks it's worth it, to ruin this guy's life. Nothing but vultures and spectators here. I will never pay a dime for a NVR because of junk journalism like this.

  14. cas
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    cas - July 29, 2011 8:12 pm
    My daughter had Mike Copithorne as her home teacher at Napa Christian for years and I spent many hours with him at school and on extended field trips, etc. Every child and parent I know of loves and respects "Mr. C". Hang in there Mike- We stand beside you and our prayers are with you and your family.
  15. THeENDisNEAH
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    THeENDisNEAH - July 30, 2011 6:09 pm
    Look at all the people who commented in support of the alleged molester. This blind confidence and trust allows these alleged offenders to operate in broad daylight and inside your own families. Literally.
  16. tkkm
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    tkkm - July 30, 2011 8:06 pm
    THeENDisNEAH said: "Look at all the people who commented in support of the alleged molester. This blind confidence and trust allows these alleged offenders to operate in broad daylight and inside your own families. Literally."

  17. IslandGirl
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    IslandGirl - July 30, 2011 9:09 pm
    To THeENDisNEAH: "Alleged" is the key word in your comment. I understand that there are sick people in this world who molest children; however, Mike is NOT one of them. Thankfully, we live in a country where a person is innocent until proven guilty, and if the justice system does what it is supposed to do, Mike will be completely exonerated by the time this is over. All of us who know Mike know that he is not capable of what he has been accused of, and the comments to this story are a testament to what an upstanding, honorable, and trustworthy person he truly is.
  18. trlchick25
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    trlchick25 - July 31, 2011 4:30 pm
    In today’s society when a child cries wolf the parents come running to protect it. When a female cries wolf the village comes running with pitch forks…
    I have known Copithorne for as long as he has been a teacher and as a former student of his I know these allegations are not true. He is a God-fearing man who loves his family and his career. He is a teacher who genuinely cares for his students and wants to see them succeed. A man that I look up to and respect.
    When what is being called a wolf is a sheep the village does not care, they allow their judgements to get the best of them and will see a wolf when told it’s there. Remember what our justice system says innocent until proven guilty. INNOCENT. You are so quick to judge without having any of the facts. A woman can make claims against a man and she does not need any substantial proof for others to follow through and believe her. A man’s life is being destroyed because of allegations. May God's hand be in this situation.
  19. Kate Frederick
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    Kate Frederick - July 31, 2011 10:37 pm
    To THeENDisNEAH: You obviously don't know Mike or the accusing individuals. Like much of the journalism of today it skews the story in favor of one side. The fact that so many people are showing their support for Mike should be a sign that he would not be the kind of person to commit this crime. We are not displaying this "blind confidence" you talk about. We know the situation so well that we cannot be blind to the false light this article portrays. It is sad to see that the population is so easily swayed by skewed journalism. Instead people should question all information they are given instead of "blindly" accepting all they hear.

    I have also lost respect for NVR for dragging Mike's other buisiness into the story. They are already destroying his job as a teacher and they feel they have to attack every other aspect of his life as well.
  20. cas
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    cas - August 01, 2011 10:40 am
    THeENDisNEAH said: "Look at all the people who commented in support of the alleged molester. This blind confidence and trust allows these alleged offenders to operate in broad daylight and inside your own families. Literally."

    This goes both ways theendisneah- replace your words molester and offenders with accuser. Just because a person cries "rape" is not always the truth. So until you hear otherwise the accuser can just as well be the "offender".
    Don't be so quick to judge until you hear the rest of the story. I'm really dissapointed with the NVR-why in the world would they give such personal information out. Wish they would do that more often with the real criminals!
  21. country girl
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    country girl - August 02, 2011 1:18 pm
    "What gets your comment deleted? Implying guilt of a subject in a crime story before there is a court verdict" ...I think the story does that all by itself.

    I think the Napa Register should be reporting news in a non-biased way. The several recent sexual accusation cases have all been served up as meat to lions anxious to devour. They are not being responsible for the words they publish and are thereby exploiting those that cannot defend themselves. The damage they cause is unethical. It is tabloid media.
  22. Napagrrl
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    Napagrrl - August 03, 2011 1:25 pm
    I dunno, Reg, my previous comment was in no way inflammatory, yet it was not printed. What gives? It sure makes one think about taking the time to comment when the chances are good that honest, factual comments will not be published. This forum is about opinion, anecdotal "evidence" and discussion. No one being slandered nor names named. I'll try once more.

    I believe that the police were probably quite careful investigating this case and bringing charges simply because it is a sensitive subject. The article mentions videos, photos and hundreds of text messages so there must have been something incriminating there. Further, in my life I've known either the accused or the victim in several sexual abuse cases and all of the accused were men in "positions of trust" with clean records whom no one would have ever suspected. Further, in 100% of those cases, the accused eventually admitted the abuse - and all entered guilty or no contest pleas for lesser charges.
  23. balance
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    balance - August 03, 2011 4:37 pm
    I don't see why NVR is accused of being biased. They are simply reporting the facts - that charges have been made. It is true that sometimes the innocent are accused. It is also true that good people sometimes make mistakes and do bad things. The whole point of the trial is to try to arrive at the truth. It may have taken a lot of courage for the alleged victim to accuse a beloved community figure. Neither the victim nor the accused should be judged on this comment page - we don't know all the facts.
  24. gentilbreeze
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    gentilbreeze - August 03, 2011 6:27 pm
    Napagrrl said: " The article mentions videos, photos and hundreds of text messages so there must have been something incriminating there. Further, in my life I've known either the accused or the victim in several sexual abuse cases and all of the accused were men in "positions of trust" with clean records whom no one would have ever suspected. Further, in 100% of those cases, the accused eventually admitted the abuse - and all entered guilty or no contest pleas for lesser charges."
    In every case investigators clean the house of cell phones and any media they can find. IT DOES NOT mean there is evidence usable for court on them. I hope the truth comes out and he didn't actually do it.

  25. pharper
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    pharper - August 03, 2011 10:36 pm
    "A woman can make claims against a man and she does not need any substantial proof for others to follow through and believe her."

    Even if that were true, we're not talking about a woman. We're talking about a CHILD. A child UNDER 16. How many of you would walk up to that poor girl and accuse her of lying? REALLY? Do you think most children (especially children growing up in Christian homes) have enough knowledge to knowingly LIE about something as specific as oral copulation? REALLY? This is a child we're talking about. Don't know her age or he circumstances, but she'd have to be a pretty savvy (unusually,freakishly savvy) to come up with something as elaborate as this.
  26. sdnapa
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    sdnapa - August 04, 2011 9:26 am
    PHarper: I hate to say it, but you are naïve to believe that 15 year old girls (the article states the girl is 15) don't know what oral copulation is. Christian home or no Christian home. Sure, they may not know that the LEGAL name for it, but most girls that age know exactly what oral copulation is.

    The facts of this case are unknown to all, except for what we have read here, so everything is speculation at this point.

    In the end, even if falsely accused & innocent, Mr. Copithorne will pay for this for the rest of his life.
  27. pharper
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    pharper - August 04, 2011 9:38 pm
    I work full-time at a children's summer camp with ages 3 to 17. I know exactly what a 15-year-old girl knows and doesn't know, and it would seem to me that the average 15-year-old girl is disinclined to cast so much negative attention on herself, if for no other reason than fear of being embarrassed. Teens that young are painfully aware of what they think others' perceptions of them are. It's a pretty vicious accusation to say that a 15-year-old would then turn around and LIE about something as big as that. Really? You're going to cast your suspicion on the victim, who is a child, rather than the grown adult? It seems quite a stretch to assume that this poor girl would make the whole thing up.
  28. THeENDisNEAH
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    THeENDisNEAH - August 06, 2011 7:25 am
    Napagrrl said: "... in my life I've known either the accused or the victim in several sexual abuse cases and all of the accused were men in "positions of trust" with clean records whom no one would have ever suspected."

    That's because the monster is in each and every one of us. Men and women. But then again so is the light. Who wins today?
  29. napavgirl
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    napavgirl - August 07, 2011 3:00 pm
    cas said: "My daughter had Mike Copithorne as her home teacher at Napa Christian for years and I spent many hours with him at school and on extended field trips, etc. Every child and parent I know of loves and respects "Mr. C". Hang in there Mike- We stand beside you and our prayers are with you and your family. "

    Exactly why so few victims come forward, and why so many well liked/respected criminals slip through the cracks of our judicial system. If your daughter told you he molested would you not believe her? Or would you support him and call her a liar?

  30. napavgirl
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    napavgirl - August 09, 2011 2:29 pm
    Before anyone makes a comment on the above, let me state why. Do you know that many children outthere will and have threaten their parents to call 911 and report torture and abuse if the parents force them to follow house rules or not allowed them to skip school? Do you know that even 8 year old children will share this "tips' with other children? Very dangerous statements and very manipulative children!"
    No we don't, so why don't you give statistics and cite your references? Be specific don't just generalize your experiences to our entire country.
  31. animegurl3000
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    animegurl3000 - January 04, 2012 11:30 pm
    Bauhausfan said: "Yes, and if your daughter was the one who was involved in this alleged incident with Mike you would have the same reaction. "

    Look he is a good man. I was one of his former students an his TA meaning I cleaned his classroom for him not once did he do anything he was respectful an was like a second father to me. He isnt the type of man too do that he has a beautiful wife an kid. an i dont take kindly to anyone bad mouthing my former teach. If the girl is lying what them? are you still going to have the same opion?

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