Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Story of the Day - Debra Lafave
Teacher who had sex with teen arrested again
Debra Jean Beasley (born August 28, 1980) was a reading teacher at Angelo L. Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, Florida, when she was charged with several counts of having illegal sexual relations and statutory rape with a minor in 2004.
Arrest and trial
Investigating officers pursued the case after being notified by the 14-year-old boy's mother. Officers tape-recorded conversations between Debra and the boy, then arrested Lafave at their next rendezvous. Compelling evidence was provided by the boy in the form of accurate and detailed descriptions of private characteristics of Lafave's body. One European newspaper published the boy's name and photo; legal action by his mother led to its being removed from the paper's website.
Because the illegal sexual activity occurred in two different counties, two separate sets of charges were filed. A trial date was set for December 5 at a court hearing after the prosecution and the defense could not agree on a plea bargain. The prosecution's plea deal involved prison time, which Debra and her parents found unacceptable. Debra's defense attorney caused a national stir that made headlines by remarking to the media that "to place Debbie into a Florida state women's penitentiary, to place an attractive young woman in that kind of hellhole, is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions." In a book written by her ex-husband Owen Lafave, he suggests that this statement was an intentional ploy by the attorney.
The Tampa Police Department also came under scrutiny when it was revealed they took graphic nude photos of LaFave while she was in stirrups in a jail cell. John Gillespie, the lead detective who requested the nude photos of LaFave, was arrested before the trial in an unrelated prostitution sting.
Shortly before the trial was scheduled to begin, the boy's mother, who had been insisting that Debra serve time in prison, learned that the trial was to be covered by Court TV and changed her stance, agreeing to a plea bargain with no prison time to prevent her son from having to testify in court. A new plea agreement was quickly worked out.
On November 22, 2005, Debra pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of Community Control (house arrest) and seven years of probation, along with a string of other requirements.
On December 8, 2005, the judge in the second county refused to accept plea-agreement terms that included no prison time and set a trial date for April 10, 2006. In an unusual act, the prosecutor announced the charges were being dropped.
After the trial
On September 29, 2006, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter claimed on The Howard Stern Show that he lost his virginity to Debra Lafave when they were classmates.
Lafave is referenced in the documents submitted to NBC in April 2007 by Cho Seung-hui, who carried out the Virginia Tech massacre
Lafave later attributed her indiscretions to bipolar disorder, which is associated with intense and irregular mood swings, and with hypersexuality and poor judgment during manic episodes.
Debra Lafave was arrested on December 4, 2007, for violating her probation. The violation listed says she talked to a 17-year-old female restaurant coworker on "non-work related issues such as family problems, friends, high school, personal life, boyfriend issues and sexual issues. ... (Lafave) received no permission from the court to have any contact with minors." She was released from jail later that day on her promise to appear in court for a hearing later.
Crossing the line
NBC's Matt Lauer sits down with notorious teacher Debra Lafave
ANYONE SHE WANTED: THE SEXUAL OFFENSE OF DEBRA LAFAVE
Plea Deal - The funniest videos are a click away
Guilty of sex with student, teacher avoids prison
Attorney abandons insanity defense in plea deal for 'tired' client
In a last-minute effort to keep herself out of prison, a 25-year-old middle school teacher pleaded guilty Tuesday to having sex with a 14-year-old.
Debra Lafave, a former remedial reading teacher at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace, Florida, pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior, and was sentenced to three years of house arrest followed by seven years probation. She also must register as a sex offender.
She could have faced up to 15 years for each count filed in Hillsborough County. She also could have been charged in Marion County, because one of the incidents happened there.
"I want to apologize to the court, to the young man involved and to his family for my actions," Lafave said. "I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I am very sorry for everything which has occurred." (Watch as she makes her court appearance -- 1:03)
A 14-year-old boy told investigators he had sex with Lafave three times in four days in June 2004, according to court documents. One of those times was in a car while his 15-year-old cousin drove them around, he told authorities.
He also said she performed oral sex on him multiple times, including once at her home, the documents said.
Defense attorney John Fitzgibbons said he began negotiating the plea deal Monday after he deposed the boy's cousin.
"We believe that this was a very fair resolution of this case," Fitzgibbons said, adding that Lafave avoided prison time with the plea and will be allowed to continue her mental health treatment.
"Very importantly, it allows the young man involved here to go on with his life, just as Debbie can go on with her life," he said. "He does not have to participate in a trial or deposition."
Fitzgibbons had originally planned an insanity defense, saying earlier this year that Lafave had "some profound emotional issues" and that "once anyone reads what the doctors have to say, they will understand a lot more."
Asked how she felt after the plea deal was announced, Lafave said only, "Tired."
It was a change of heart by the boy's parents that made the plea deal possible. At first, they had insisted that Lafave serve at least three years in prison, but they recently relented, allowing prosecutors to strike the deal before the trial began.
"Because of the media coverage of these cases, I fear that proceeding to trial will negatively affect my son's emotional and psychological well-being," the boy's mother said in an affidavit filed in Hillsborough County on Tuesday.
She added that her son did not want to testify and merely "wants to resume his life in as normal a manner as possible."
Double Standard in LaFave Case?
Punishment Differs for Men and Women Who Have Sex With Teens
The decision in the Debra LaFave case raises the question: Is there a double standard when it comes to having sex with teens?
Exhibit One: Debra LaFave. The now notorious 25-year-old middle school teacher from Tampa, Fla., had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery for having sex with a 14-year-old male student almost two years ago. It was part of a plea deal her lawyers struck with prosecutors so she could avoid serving time in prison.
This morning a judge rejected the deal. This afternoon the prosecutor threw up his hands and dropped all charges.
Exhibit Two: Dang Van Dinh. Earlier this month, the Orlando, Fla., chemistry teacher was sentenced to five years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old female student.
Comparisons to cases like Van Dinh's seemed on the mind of Tampa Judge Hale R. Stancil this morning when he rejected the plea deal prosecutors had negotiated with LaFave.
"Accepting the proposed plea agreement would undermine the credibility of this court, and the criminal justice system as a whole, and would erode public confidence in our schools," Stancil wrote in an order released today.
The judge may have thought his actions would result in tougher punishment for LaFave. Instead, the case imploded.
The boy at the center of this case, now 15, has reportedly been overwhelmed by the media frenzy. His mother decided it would be too traumatic for him to testify against his former teacher. That left prosecutors with a much-weakened case and few options.
"The court may be willing to risk the victim's well-being in this case in order to force it to trial; I am not,'' said Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway, when he announced that all charges against LaFave had been dropped.
That's why they offered LaFave the plea deal that would have sentenced her to three years of house arrest followed by seven years of probation. She accepted. But now, even that mild rebuke is gone.
It is almost certainly no coincidence that the woman at the center of this highly scrutinized case is an attractive, 25-year-old blonde. Her exploits with the teen have been fodder for shock jocks, tabloids and late-night TV.
Comedian Jay Leno has joked about the case regularly, usually with a punchline like: "Where were these teachers when I was in school?"
As commentators have repeatedly noted, it is hard to imagine a comedian making similar comments if the case involved a male teacher and a young female student.
And LaFave? She is not completely exonerated. Last November she pleaded guilty in the same case in another county to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in exchange for serving three years of house arrest followed by seven years of probation.
She is clearly relieved that there will be no additional punishment but also publicly contrite. This afternoon she spoke for the first time since her arrest. She says she is "very remorseful." And, she adds, "I only pray the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives.''
Meanwhile, former teacher Dang van Dinh has begun serving his five-year sentence.
Ex-teacher in Fla. teen sex case arrested
A former teacher serving house arrest for having sex with a 14-year-old student was arrested on charges of violating her probation, state records show.
According to a Department of Corrections report, Debra Lafave discussed her personal life and other subjects with a teenage waitress at a restaurant where both worked. One of the terms of her probation was that she was not allowed to have unsupervised contact with minors without permission.
Lafave, 26, is serving three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to having sex with the boy in a classroom and her home in June 2004.
She was arrested Tuesday morning and released from jail on her promise to appear in court. It was not immediatelyclear when that hearing would occur.
Defense attorney John Fitzgibbons said he was disappointed that Lafave's probation officer ordered her arrest for what he called an "insignificant" violation. He said Lafave and the 17-year-old girl had a "typical workplace conversation that women have with their women colleagues."
"It was a workplace friendship — no more, no less," he said.
State attorney's office spokeswoman Pam Bondi said prosecutors would not comment on Lafave's arrest until the hearing.
Probation records show Lafave worked at a Tampa-area restaurant until last month, 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.
He said Lafave has done so well on her first two years of house arrest that he plans to ask 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 face up to 15 years in prison for a probation violation.