- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A female teacher pleaded guilty yesterday to having sex with a 14-year-old student, avoiding prison as part of a plea agreement.

Debra LaFave, 25, whose sensational case made tabloid headlines, will serve three years of house arrest and seven years’ probation. She pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery.

The former Greco Middle School reading teacher apologized during the hearing, saying, “I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

The boy told investigators the two had sex in a classroom at the Greco school, located in Temple Terrace near Tampa, in her Riverview town house and once in a vehicle while his 15-year-old cousin drove them around Marion County.

The boy told investigators Mrs. LaFave told him her marriage was in trouble and that she was aroused by the fact that having sex with him was not allowed. He said he and Mrs. LaFave, a newlywed at the time, got to know each other on their way back from a class trip to SeaWorld Orlando in May 2004.

If convicted at trial, she could have faced up to 15 years in prison on each count. The plea agreement also was designed to resolve similar charges pending in Marion County.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman said Mrs. LaFave also will permanently lose her teaching certificate, must register with the state as a sexual predator, may not have any contact with children including the victim, and will not be allowed to profit from the sale of her story or any personal appearances.

Prosecutor Michael Sinacore said the young victim’s family wanted to get the case settled because of the intense public and news media scrutiny.

“We’re happy that the victim’s family can put this case behind them,” he said. “The whole process has been very difficult, and we hope they can now resume their lives.”

After yesterday’s hearing, her attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said the plea was “a fair resolution of this case.” Asked how she felt afterward, Mrs. LaFave said “tired.”

Mr. Fitzgibbons said in July that plea negotiations had broken off because prosecutors insisted on prison time, which he said would be too dangerous for someone as attractive as Mrs. LaFave. He said then that she planned to plead insanity at trial, contending that emotional stress kept her from knowing right from wrong.

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