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Ex-teacher pleads guilty to sex with teens

By Grace Wong, In Session Producer
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Teacher in sex scandal case takes deal
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stephanie Ragusa faces up to 10 years in prison
  • She pleaded guilty to having sex with two underage boys
  • Ragusa pleaded guilty as jury selection was to begin at her trial
RELATED TOPICS
  • Sexual Offenses
  • Teenagers
  • Tampa

Tampa, Florida (CNN) -- Former middle school math teacher Stephanie Ragusa was teary-eyed Monday as she pleaded guilty to having sex with two underage students.

Ragusa, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison when she is sentenced on June 15.

She pleaded guilty to three counts of lewd and lascivious battery in a March 2008 case involving a 14-year-old boy.

She also pleaded guilty to two counts of having unlawful sex with a minor in an April 2008 case involving a 16-year-old student.

Prosecutor Rita Peters said Ragusa had intercourse with the 14-year-old on three occasions between October 2006 and May 2007. Evidence in that case included a phone conversation police recorded with the teen's consent. During the phone call, Ragusa could be heard urging him to keep their encounters secret, Peters said.

Peters said the encounters with the other teen began when he was 15. They ended when she was arrested in April 2008 as she was leaving his home. Evidence in the case included DNA matches, several amorous letters Ragusa wrote and gifts she gave him, the prosecutor added. The gifts included a key chain with her initials on it.

Peters said investigators also found a will in Ragusa's handwriting that named the teen as executor.

Shackled and dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Ragusa entered her guilty pleas just before a jury was to be picked at her trial.

Ragusa repeatedly glanced at her father, Ricardo Ragusa, as details of the charges were read aloud in court. Tears welled in her eyes, and she shrugged her shoulders, ducked her head and hid her face beneath a veil of long, dark brown hair.

Peters said outside the courtroom that she had spoken with the victims and their families, and they were "in full support of the resolution in these cases."

"They were prepared to testify," Peters added.

Ragusa has been in jail since her arrest, and defense attorney Robert Herce said she has spent more time behind bars than several other teachers in Hillsborough County, Florida, who have faced similar charges.