A female teacher pleaded guilty Tuesday 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 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 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 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 in Hillsborough County, she could have faced up to 15 years in prison on each count.
The plea agreement also was designed to resolve similar charges in Marion County, where Lafave was scheduled to appear in court Dec. 8. But prosecutor Ric Ridgeway said his office wants to speak with the boy's family first.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman said LaFave also 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.
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."
After Tuesday's hearing, Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said the plea was "a fair resolution of this case." Asked how she felt afterward, Lafave said "tired."
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, AP reports. P.T.