Judge Balks At Teacher Sex Plea

Debra Lafave, former middle school teacher charged with having sex with a student, leaves the Hillsborough County Courthouse after pleading guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery, Tampa, Florida, Nov. 22, 2005.
AP
A judge has rejected a plea deal in which a former teacher would have avoided prison time for having sex with a 14-year-old student, prosecutors said.

Debra Lafave walked into a Florida court expecting the judge to rubber stamp the plea agreement she made with prosecutors last month, CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports. But the judge had other plans.

Lafave left the courthouse in tears.

Under an agreement reached last month, Lafave, 25, would have been sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years' probation after pleading guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery. Had she been convicted of the charges at trial, she could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The agreement was meant to resolve charges in two counties, but a judge in one of the counties balked, Ric Ridgeway, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office, said Thursday.

Judge Hale Stancil set an April trial date, but Ridgeway said the attorneys will be back before the judge with a new deal by then. He didn't say what the judge's concerns were, only that he wanted changes.

Legal analyst Wendy Murphy thinks public outcry turned the tide.

"A lot of people were angry," Murphy said. "The voice of the community is supposed to matter when judges give out sentences in criminal cases."

And people in this Florida community are demanding that this teacher get more than what amounts to detention after class, reports Acosta.

Her ex-husband is arguing for hard time.

"I think a year to two years of jail time in conjunction with some intense psychiatric help," said Owen Lafave.

The outstanding charges against Lafave claim she had sex with the boy in a sport utility vehicle while his 15-year-old cousin drove.

Defense attorney John Fitzgibbons said the judge indicated he wanted to hear expert information about a trial's potential impact on the two boys.

Last month, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman said LaFave, whose sexual liaisons made tabloid headlines, 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. He also said she will not be allowed to profit from the sale of her story or personal appearances.