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Charges Dropped Against Lafave in One County

OCALA, Fla. – Charges against a Tampa teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old middle-school student have been dropped in one of the two counties where the incidents occurred, FOX News has learned.

Debra Lafave, 25, was charged in Marion County with lewd and lascivious battery for having sex with the now 16-year-old boy. She is already serving seven years probation and three years house arrest for those same crimes in Hillsborough County as part of a plea deal.

But the state’s attorney’s office in Marion County dropped the charges there on Tuesday after a judge rejected a similar plea deal that would have allowed Lafave to again avoid going to trial – and to prison. Because the boy’s family doesn’t want him to testify, the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to present its case.

Marion County Circuit Judge Hale R. Stancil said Tuesday that honoring the plea agreement would undermine the credibility of the criminal justice system and “erode public confidence in our schools.”

“Accepting the proposed plea agreement would likewise send the message that if enough publicity is generated, and the media’s interest continues long enough, and because of that interest the victim does not wish to testify, a defendant can avoid an appropriate sentence,” Stancil wrote in his decision. “Quite frankly, if the allegations against the defendant are true, the agreed-upon sentence shocks the conscience of this court.”

Normally, Stancil’s ruling would have sent the case to trial. If Lafave had gone to trial and was found guilty of the charges, it would almost certainly have meant jail time of up to 30 years for the former teacher.

The boy’s family wanted to avoid a trial and Lafave wouldn’t agree to a plea deal containing a sentence of imprisonment, according to the decision.

Lafave and her attorney planned a press conference Tuesday afternoon. The Marion County state’s attorney’s office was to hold a separate news conference Tuesday.

Lafave pleaded guilty in November to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery brought against her in Hillsborough County for having sex with the boy in a classroom and her home when she was 23 and he was 14.

Earlier this month, prosecutors and defense attorneys begged Stancil to accept the deal on behalf of the victim and his family. A psychiatrist who examined the boy told the judge that the victim has suffered extreme anxiety from the intense media coverage surrounding the case and does not want to testify.

The judge rejected the deal stemming from charges that Lafave had sex with the teen in Ocala, Marion County. He set an April trial date, but attorneys said they’d revise the plea agreement.

A judge in Hillsborough County, where other sexual encounters took place between the teacher and student, accepted the plea deal there and sentenced her to three years of house arrest and seven years probation. The basic terms of the plea deal in Marion County were the same, and Lafave would have served the two sentences concurrently.

Even though the charges have been dropped in Marion County, Lafave will still serve out the terms of the plea deal accepted by the Hillsborough County judge.

 

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