After a judge rejected a proposed plea agreement charges against Debra LaFave, the 25-year-old Tampa teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student were dropped by prosecutors in Marion County, Florida. From The St. Petersburg Times:
TAMPA - A few hours after an Ocala judge refused to accept a plea deal, Marion County prosecutors announced that they were dropping all charges against Debra Lafave, the former middle school teacher accused of sexual assault of a student nearly two years ago.
"The court may be willing to risk the victim’s well being in this case in order to force it to trial, I am not,’’ said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney in Marion County.
Earlier Tuesday, Marion County Judge Hale R. Stancil had rejected a plea deal that would have spared Lafave jail time in exchange for pleading guilty.
“Accepting the proposed plea agreement would undermine the credibility of this court, and the criminal justice system as a whole, and would erode public confidence in our schools,” Judge Stancil wrote in the order released Tuesday.
Marion County prosecutors then decided to drop the charges.
Debra LaFave did not escape punishment completely. In November 2005 LaFave plead guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in Hillsborough County in exchange for a sentence of three years of house arrest and seven years probation. That guilty plea also required her to register as a sex offender, but she did escape any prison time. Prosecutors agreed to the plea bargain after the family of the victim implored them to find a way for the now 16-year-old boy to avoid what was destined to become a media circus. LaFave had faced up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Today’s action in Marion County, where she faced similar charges, ends the case for LaFave, who is now engaged to her high school sweetheart Andrew Beck.
It also marks a chance for the victim and his family to somehow find their way back to normal.