LAKELAND, Fla. - A former Lakeland teacher who admitted to having sex with several of her students will spend the next 22 years behind bars, reports CBS affiliate WTSP.
On Thursday, a judge called Jennifer Fichter, 30, a predator, as he pronounced her sentence. Fichter was reportedly first accused of having inappropriate conduct with an eighth grader in 2008. She resigned from that school district later that year and in August 2011 was hired by another district. She is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student just one month after starting her new job.
"All I can say is I'm so sorry," the former English teacher told family members and the court.
When she was first arrested, Fichter would reportedly grin during her hearings, but the former teacher at Lakeland's Central Florida Aerospace Academy wept in court on Thursday, apologized and asked for mercy.
"I wish I could take it back, and my words are not going to suffice I know that," said Fichter.
In a recorded phone call played in court, Fichter admitted to aborting a pregnancy with one of her young victims. She also confessed to having multiple sexual encounters with at least two other boys.
"You were pregnant and had an abortion, is that true?" one of the victim's mothers asked her in a recording.
"Yes, that's true," replied Fichter.
The judge heard from a psychologist who said Fichter had made bad choices and her father asked the court to get his daughter help.
But victims and their family members say the 30-year-old former teacher had shattered their lives by preying on her teenage students, whom she met at parties, off-campus locations, and even her own apartment for sex.
"It hurts," said one mother addressing the court, "I saw myself losing my son before my very eyes and there was nothing I could do to reach him."
Prosecutors say Fichter lied to the victims' parents and had the students lie on her behalf, knowing she would be in trouble if she was ever caught.
Fichter faced up to 15 years on each of 37 counts of sexual contact with a minor.
The prosecutor said that just because Fichter is female, and her male students were willing participants, does not make them any less victimized.
"If a man came in here today, your honor, and told you that he continually had sex with his teenage female students over a period of years, because it made him feel good about himself, he would be buried under the jail," said the prosecutor.
The judge sentenced Fichter to 22 years, which was three years less than a plea deal she had rejected in April.
Fichter still faces charges in Hillsborough County, for having sex with some of the same students in that jurisdiction.