Teacher Sex Insanity Plea Planned

A middle-school reading teacher whose sexual liaisons with a 14-year-old student made tabloid headlines broke off plea negotiations with prosecutors and will claim insanity at a December trial, her attorney said Monday.

Debra Lafave, 24, was under such emotional stress that she didn't know right from wrong when she had sex with a 14-year-old student numerous times in June 2004, attorney John Fitzgibbons said after a brief court hearing. A Dec. 5 trial date was set.

Both sides said they had hoped to avoid a trial, reports Dave Balut of WTSP-TV in Tampa.

Fitzgibbons said plea bargaining broke down because prosecutors wanted too much prison time for Lafave, who appeared in court Monday but did not speak.

"To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hellhole is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions," said Fitzgibbons, who wouldn't talk about details of the negotiations. "I'm not sure Debbie would survive."

He said he had hoped to settle the case with a plea agreement, "not only for Debbie's sake but for the young man's sake."

State attorney's office spokeswoman Pam Bondi also wouldn't disclose details of the negotiations but said prosecutors "made every effort to resolve the case, and now we will have to put the victim and his family through a trial."

"Our interest was in trying to spare the victim from having to testify in this case, and we made the best offer we could under the circumstances to try to accomplish that," said prosecutor Mike Sinacore.