A Merced County judge Wednesday overruled an order preventing a Los Banos teacher charged with having sex with students from contacting his co-defendant, who also is the man’s girlfriend.
Teacher Gary A. Bettencourt and girlfriend Devyn M. Egan have pleaded not guilty to having sexual relationships with at least one student. Bettencourt, 41, and Egan, 22, appeared in court together Wednesday.
Also, Merced Superior Court Judge Mark V. Bacciarini, who took over proceedings in May, ruled that a previous order prohibiting contact between Bettencourt and Egan was “erroneous.” That means Bettencourt and Egan can meet outside the courthouse.
Bacciarini said the ruling came after an informal meeting with lawyers representing the prosecution and defense.
The judge also scheduled another hearing for Aug. 19 to allow attorneys in the case more time to collect and review evidence, but also told the attorneys there was a need to move the case along in a timely manner.
Bettencourt, an English teacher at Pacheco High School who has been on unpaid administrative leave since September, when the allegations first came to light, is charged with 13 felonies, including unlawful sexual intercourse, oral copulation with a minor and lewd acts upon a child.
Egan is a substitute teacher in Stanislaus County and is charged with six similar felonies. School officials have said Egan won’t be used as a substitute teacher pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Both have been accused of having sex with one of Bettencourt’s students, a 17-year-old girl, several times from April through June of last year, according to court records.
Bettencourt also is charged with having sexual relationships with at least two other students. He is accused of committing lewd acts with a 15-year-old girl in late 2003 and early 2004 and oral copulation with another girl who was under 18 in late 2006.
The investigation into Bettencourt uncovered sex allegations against a former teacher, Dusty Norris. Norris, who later became a Los Banos police officer, was arrested May 18.
A report by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office describes “a couple of strange coincidence” (sic) between the Bettencourt and Norris investigations. Norris was the first police officer to receive information about the allegations against Bettencourt in September 2015, and Norris took the initial report during the investigation.
Prosecutors have said the two cases “are not related,” but at least one girl is believed to have been victimized by Bettencourt and Norris, authorities have said.
Bettencourt and Egan remain free on bail.