Tampa teacher who admitted sex with student let off probation early

Story highlights

  • Debra Lafave pleaded guilty in 2005 to having sex with a 14-year-old boy
  • She was sentenced to 10 years, a mix of house arrest and probation
  • Over objections from the victim's family, the judge ends her probation four years early
A Florida judge cut short Thursday the probation of Debra Lafave, a former Tampa middle school teacher who six years earlier pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old boy, a state law enforcement official said.
She originally was sentenced to house arrest. That was reduced to probation in July 2008, and was set to expire on November 15, 2015 -- 10 years after she entered her plea -- said Mark Cox, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County state attorney's office.
The victim's sister, as well as prosecutors, argued unsuccessfully Thursday against letting her off probation, he added.
Judge Wayne Timmerman issued his decision after the hearing in Tampa, which lasted more than an hour.
"We disagree with the judge's decision," Cox said. "We will seek relief at the appellate level."
The prosecution claims that when it agreed to the 2005 plea deal, Lafave had agreed that she would not try to terminate her sentence early.
The 31-year-old woman, who is engaged and recently had twin sons, did not speak at Thursday's hearing. But her defense attorney, John Fitzgibbons, earlier said that she had served a significant punishment and wants to return to some semblance of normalcy.
"She is a new mom with all the responsibilities that come with twin boys, so she hopes to finally put this matter behind her and move on with her life," Fitzgibbons said,
At her original sentencing, Lafave was required to register as a sex offender and ordered not to have any contact with minors.
In January 2008, a Florida judge ruled that she violated her probation by hugging a young co-worker, a 17-year-old hostess at a small Tampa-area restaurant named Danny Boy's. But the judge did not send Lafave to jail, saying the violation was "not willful and substantial."
At the time, Lafave acknowledged she was aware that hugs and other forms of physical contact -- as well as conversations that included sex-related topics -- with a minor violated terms of her probation. She referred to the conversations that she admitted having at work as just "girl talk."
A court report said those conversations included a variety of topics not related to work, including "personal life, boyfriend issues and sexual issues."