No Jail Time for Florida Teacher in Sex Case

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A Florida reading teacher charged with having sex with a minor pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior as part of a plea deal that does not include any jail time.

"I accept full responsibility for my actions," Greco Middle School teacher Debra Lafave, 25, said during Tuesday's trial in Tampa.

The deal provides that Lafave will not serve any jail time in connection with multiple sex acts with a 14-year-old student unless she violates the terms of the plea agreement, which includes three years of house arrest and seven years' probation.

"To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hell hole is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions," Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said in July of the possibility of jail time. "I'm not sure she would survive."

The boy told investigators the two had sex in a classroom at the Greco school 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.

He also said to investigators that Lafave had 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 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.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman said Lafave will forever 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 personal appearances.

Prosecutor Michael Sinacore said the young victim's family wanted to get the case over with because of the intense public and 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 Tuesday's hearing, Fitzgibbons said the plea was "a fair resolution of this case." Asked how she felt afterward, Lafave said "tired."

On Friday state Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman ordered attorneys not to talk publicly about the pending prosecution of Lafave amid worries of seating an untainted jury. The gag order was a major setback for the defense, which appears to have led to today's resolution.

"I don't see what the harm is in telling these guys from this point on in order to get a fair and impartial jury, you guys keep your mouths shut," the judge said last week.

The victim's mother said afterward that the public scrutiny had taken its toll on the family, and they just wanted to see it all end.

"If we had continued along this path, this would have followed him forever," said the mother, whose name was being withheld to protect her son's identity. "My prayer is that he can leave this behind him and go on and be a happy, healthy young man."

Lafave had faced four felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition, each of which carry a maximum 15-year prison term.

Fitzgibbons last week had said Lafave would plead insanity at trial, claiming she was under such emotional stress that she didn't know right from wrong.

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 Lafave. He said then that she planned to plead insanity at trial, claiming emotional stress kept her from knowing right from wrong.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.