TAMPA, Fla. – A judge decided Thursday that Debra Lafave, a former middle school teacher and sex offender, violated her probation by having contact with an underage female co-worker at a restaurant where she worked, but it wasn't sufficient enough to put her back into jail.
Lafave — who has reverted to her maiden name, Debra Beasley — will continue on her stringent probation program or community control, Judge J. Rogers Padgett of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Florida ruled Thursday.
"The court finds that you are in violation of your community control," Padgett said. "The court finds that the violation is neither willful nor substantial, and the court will not revoke your community control but will continue you on the same. Please don't come back, OK?"
Prosecutors alleged that Beasley's conduct violated her plea agreement and condition 69 of her orders of community supervision: "No unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 18 without another adult present who is responsible for the child's welfare, who has been advised of the crime and who has been approved by the sentencing court until you have successfully completed a sex-offender treatment program unless authorized by the sentencing court."
Beasley was arrested Dec. 4, 2007, after officials learned of her contact with the underage worker at the restaurant. She entered a formal denial to the allegations through her lawyer, John Fitzgibbons, at a hearing last month.
At Thursday's hearing, Beasley answered questions about her conduct before the court. She had previously taken two polygraph tests about the incidents.
According to a Department of Corrections report, Beasley discussed her personal life and other subjects with the co-worker. "I don't discuss my personal life," told the court on Thursday.
Beasley, 27, is serving three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to having sex with the 14-year-old boy in a classroom and her home in June 2004.
When asked about whether she had ever touched her co-worker, Beasley acknowledged "innocent" handshakes and hugs.
"It was out of my good nature, you know, to give somebody — anybody, not just her — a hug," Beasley said.
The police report said Beasley spoke with her teenage co-worker numerous times about family problems, friends, high school, boyfriends and sex.
"I would say that I just got caught up in a family-oriented place," she said. "My manager was the owner. The parents were always in there. We all acted like brothers and sisters, and I got very casual. Nothing was meant to be inappropriate at all. I just felt that these people were my family."
Fitzgibbons questioned her probation officer about when he discovered that she was working with underage co-workers — 2006 — and why he didn't report her formally then when he learned of the allegations.
The probation officer said he didn't have any proof at the time.
Probation records show Beasley worked for two years at a Tampa-area restaurant until last year, when her probation officer ordered her to quit. She now works as a receptionist at her mother's barbershop.
Fitzgibbons said he and his client were surprised by the arrest. "I don't think anyone felt this was a huge issue," he said.
Fitzgibbons said Beasley has done so well on her first two years of house arrest that he was just days away from asking a judge to convert the final year to straight probation, which is less restrictive.
Other terms of her probation include sex offender treatment, random drug testing and 200 hours of community service, which she has completed.
Lafave pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in November 2005. She could have faced up to 15 years in prison for a probation violation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.