A Pennsylvania high school basketball coach accused of having lesbian relationships with two teenage pupils has won her bid to be tried separately for each alleged offense.
Kelli Vassallo, 36, pictured, was supposedly involved with the two students at different times four years apart.
The younger girl the teacher was allegedly associated with was aged 13. It’s claimed Miss Vassallo molested her on up to 20 occasions.
The second case relates to activity over a period of months with a girl who was aged 17 when the relationship began. It ended when she was 18. They allegedly had physical contact up to 50 times.
Vassallo, a teacher in the Williamsport Area School District, turned herself in to police in December 2016 following a seven-month investigation launched after the younger girl told a teacher what had happened.
Judge Marc Lovecchio has now approved her request for separate trials because he found there were no similarities between the two cases.
He said: “That a 13-year-old may have been molested over a period of a year is far different from the other situation in which a 17-year-old essentially fell in love with the defendant and they had consensual sexual encounters.”
Vassallo was the seventh-grade girls basketball coach between 2012 and 2015 and assistant girls softball coach from 2011 to 2014 in the Loyalsock district.
The alleged assaults on the younger girl – who was on the basketball team – are said to have occurred from June 2013 at two venues, including the teacher’s own home.
Vassallo would apparently text the teen while “helping her through a rough time”.
Three months later, Vassallo allegedly told the child: “I can’t fight our feelings. I know it’s wrong, but I think we should try to do this.”
The girl, now 16, told investigators she spent a lot of time at Vassallo’s home doing “homosexual stuff”.
According to court files, touching led to kissing, showering together and finger penetration until August 2014.
The girl has claimed Vassallo told her the activity would have to stop if people got suspicious.
She is said to have reported the coach because “now that she’s older, she realized what happened to her was not okay”.
Vassallo apparently met the older girl when she was babysitting for a family the teacher was living with. A relationship began in the fall of 2009 with Vassallo giving the pupil gifts, investigators said.
The girl’s concerned parents found 275 texts between the pair and drew up papers preventing Vassallo from contacting their daughter.
“However, Vassallo continued the contact, using other people’s phones and Facebook pages.The teen thought it was okay to still be talking with her since Vassallo was an adult and reaching out to her.”
The following summer, the relationship between the two allegedly went further by becoming physical, police were told.
The pupil, now in her early 20s, was interviewed by police in 2010 about the relationship but denied anything inappropriate happened and the case was closed.
Vassallo is on bail charged with aggravated, institutional and indecent assault, corruption of minors and criminal use of a communications device.