Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Teacher In Student Sex Case
UPDATED: 6:16 pm EST March 21, 2006
TAMPA, Fla. -- Prosecutors in one Florida county decided Tuesday to drop charges against a former Tampa teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old middle school student.
The decision, announced hours after a judge rejected a plea deal for Debra Lafave, means the victim won't have to testify.
Lafave's sentence in another county for having sex with the same boy still stands.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys had urged the judge to accept the deal for the sake of the boy involved. A psychiatrist who examined the teenager told the judge at a previous hearing that the boy suffered extreme anxiety from the media coverage of the case and does not want to testify.
Marion County Circuit Judge Hale Stancil, however, said the lack of prison time for Lafave under the plea deal "shocks the conscience of this court," and he rejected it.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Ridgway, in explaining the decision to drop the charges, said: "The court may be willing to risk the well-being of the victims in this case in order to force it to trial. I am not."
Lafave, 25, was already sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years' probation in Hillsborough County, where she was charged with having sex with the same boy in a classroom and her home. She pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery under a plea deal there.
In Marion County, she was accused of having sex with the boy in a sport utility vehicle.
Lafave said at a news conference later Tuesday that she was getting treatment for bipolar disorder.
"I have a lot of things in my past that have unfortunately become public," Lafave said.
"I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives," she said. "Again, I offer my deepest apologies."
Hillsborough County prosecutor Mike Sinacore has said that the victim's family had anticipated a trial, but that the media attention prompted the boy's mother to push for a plea deal.
"There is no one that wanted to see Debra Lafave serve jail time more than myself," the boy's mother wrote in an e-mail to the Ocala Star-Banner over the weekend. But she said the welfare of her son was more important.