Debra Lafave, 25, a former middle school teacher in the Tampa, Fla., area, Tuesday to charges stemming from her having had sex with a 14-year-old male student. The plea bargain enables her to avoid prison.
As part of the deal, she has to serve three years under house arrest and seven years on probation. She was also stripped of her teaching license and must register as a sex offender.
Owen tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm he was "just shocked" when he heard the news. "I think all of us need to keep in mind that she is a sexual offender and, if it were a male, she would have definitely gotten some jail time. And in this case she didn't."
Debra could have faced as much as 30 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against her, but Owen says, "I don't think she deserved 30 years. I think that was extremely excessive, but she is a sexual offender, and these type of people need to be kept off the street, and there needs to be some sort of a deterrent to prevent other teachers from acting in the same type of behavior."
The deal sends the wrong message, Owen says, "because all of a sudden it's not so bad. You don't have to go to jail. In fact, you can sit home for three years and … it doesn't have that connotation of being as bad as I think it would have with a jail sentence."
Owen dismisses Debra's lawyer's contention that she is "too pretty" to go to jail. Owen says, "That was just ridiculous. I think that was just kinda setting up the sentiment, if it did go to trial, you kind of put the bug in the jury's ears that we can't send her to jail."
Despite apologizing to the victim's family in court and taking responsibility for her actions, Debra was smiling at times and Owen doesn't think she understands the gravity of what she did.
"Time and time again, in conversations I had after her arrest, I don't think she could make the distinction of how wrong it really is to have a sexual relationship with a child, and that's one of the things that's most disturbing to me."
He and Debra were married only 11 months when she was arrested and, Owen says, "At first, it was just miserable. It was the most intense pain I've ever gone through in my life, but it's made me stronger. And a lot of good has resulted from it. I'm a lot stronger person. And I've gone through things in my life that I never thought I'd have to go through. And it's really, you know, built up my character. And it's just made me stronger."
Owen says he doubts Debra is likely to commit an offense like that again. "Now that she can't teach, I don't know that she'll have an opportunity to have contact with younger children. I'm not really sure."
As for her attorney's plan to opt for the insanity defense if the case had gone to trial, Owen says, "She wasn't insane. I mean, she had some mental problems she was being treated for. But, you know, insane — it's such a strong word. And I'd seriously doubt that she was. … I think she needs intense psychiatric counseling. In fact, the judge ordered her to receive some counseling. I think it's good for her."
And how does he feel about Debra at this point?
"I think she's been given a second opportunity and needs to make the best of it," he says. "I don't hold any ill will towards her. I've tried to put that behind me and move on with my life."