A Lodi second-grade teacher accused of having drugs in his car while on lunch break was arraigned Friday on two felony and two misdemeanor charges.
An attorney for Michael Scott Phillips, 37, entered not guilty pleas during the brief Lodi court appearance.
Phillips remains free on the $10,000 bail bond he posted after his April 3 arrest. Lodi police said he was on his lunch break from Beckman Elementary School when an officer saw him talking to a bicyclist on East Vine Street.
The bicyclist took off and the officer stopped Phillips for having a broken windshield. A consensual search of Phillips' car turned up a syringe containing alleged heroin, as well as a bag of used syringes in the trunk, according to police. That led to a felony drug possession charge, as well as misdemeanor count of possessing a syringe.
In his second-grade classroom, police said they found a morphine pill sitting out on the desk, leading to the second felony drug possession charge, as well as a misdemeanor of cruelty to a child by endangering health.
The pill was prescribed, Phillips' attorney Russell Humphrey said, adding that he has a copy of the doctor's prescription. Additionally, he said, Phillips tried to call both school and district officials at the time of his arrest to ask them to secure his prescription drugs.
"At the time this occurred, the kids were out at lunch," Humphrey said. "No second-grade student had the opportunity to even be around the pill."
He said Department of Justice test results on the syringe contents have not been returned, so he did not comment on that allegation.
Phillips, who sat in court holding hands with his wife, did not comment after walking out of court, though he waited to hold the door open for a reporter.
Humphrey said Phillips, who attended high school in Lodi and now lives in Sacramento, has had no problems or complaints about his teaching.
"Now this comes up and it's been really shocking. It's not in character," the attorney said.
Lodi Unified School District officials have not commented, as it is a personnel matter. Phillips is on administrative leave.
Humphrey said the allegations have upset Phillips' family and that he welcomes the chance to fight the case.
"He's anxious to get back to work. He's always wanted to be a teacher, and he enjoys the job," Humphrey said.
Phillips will return to court May 13, and a preliminary hearing has tentatively been set for May 20.
Prosecutors asked that Phillips be searchable for narcotics and paraphernalia, an order that Judge David Warner signed.