Prosecutors said the two teens had to break into a guidance office, the registrar's office and the assistant principal's office in order to access the school's faculty and staff online computer network. Khan also allegedly attempted to install software that would allow them to access the information remotely.
In an interview with ABC News, Carol Lavacot, Khan's attorney, described her client as a nice teenager from a closeknit family. There is a lot more to the story, she said, with several other students involved in what she called a cheating "endemic" in California driven by unreasonable achievement expectations and pressure to get into good universities.
"Kids going around getting tests and cheating, it's almost the rule now rather than the exception," Lavacot said. "I think we're going to find out when this is over that this is a big problem."
Lavacot was surprised by the number of felony charges and said she did not understand why Kahn was singled out, arrested and held for 10 hours at the Orange County Detention Center. "He's going to have a difficult time getting into any university now," Lavacot said, adding that she will work with the school district to try to get Kahn his diploma.
Marlin Stapleton, Singh's attorney, told reporters outside court Wednesday that the seniors may have made some bad decisions, but the severity of the possible punishment is too extreme.
"Each time they access that computer, it seems like a new charge and a new crime," Stapleton said. "Not to say that's not wrong, but we still have to remember that these are kids."
Tesoro High School, which has 2,800 students and sits in the wealthy area of southern Orange County that inspired the reality television show "Real Housewives of Orange County," ranks among the best public schools in the nation. The rest of the senior class graduated Wednesday night, the celebration marred by the high-profile scandal.
"It's disappointing that this type of activity will grab headlines," Tesoro High School principal Daniel Burch told a reporter Wednesday, "when the focus should be on the students graduating today and their accomplishments."