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Debra Lafave no longer on probation

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 11:45 PM
TAMPA -

Nearly six years ago, a plea agreement kept Debra Lafave from going to trial and potentially facing 30 years in prison.

Instead, the former middle school teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student was sentenced to house arrest, followed by probation.

Now a judge is ending her probation four years early.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne S. Timmerman granted Lafave's request today, saying she successfully fulfilled her house arrest and the majority of her time on probation.

Prosecutors said they would appeal Timmerman's decision, arguing the plea agreement explicitly stated Lafave's probation could not be terminated early. If they win that appeal, they said, her probation would be reinstated.

Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said that as an engaged mother of twin boys Lafave hopes to put the criminal sentence behind her and move on with life. Lafave, 31, hadn't been allowed to leave Hillsborough County and had a curfew preventing her from leaving home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Her probation had not been set to end until Nov. 21, 2015.

Fitzgibbons said he was pleased with the judge's ruling and said these kinds of decisions are often made. He said his client had done everything asked of her, from community service hours to completing sex offender therapy to paying restitution. She sees a psychiatrist regularly.

"To every extent, we believe Ms. Lafave has done everything the court ordered her to do and done it well,'' Fitzgibbons said during the hearing.

Lafave didn't comment.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Sinacore said the victim's family opposed her being taken off probation. He said the only reason the family agreed to a plea deal was the high amount of publicity involved in the case and it didn't want the victim to have to go through a trial.

"The reason for probation is punishment," Sinacore told the court, "and this is the punishment she's getting. Her reward for doing well is she's not in prison.''

The prosecutor said a plea agreement had been reached and the judge has changed the terms of the agreement by allowing Lafave to end her probation early.

The victim now is 21. He graduated from high school, has been in and out of college and is currently in community college. His sister testified that the incident has devastated her brother's life and that he has undergone psychiatric treatment.

Lafave, a former English teacher at Greco Middle School, was arrested in June 2004 after the 14-year-old boy's mother called police to report Lafave was having sex with him.

In the terms of Lafave's original deal with prosecutors, signed on Nov. 22, 2005, she was to serve three years of house arrest, then seven years of probation. If she completed the first two years without incident, she could ask to serve the last year of house arrest on probation.

Guidelines upon a conviction could have sent her to prison for 30 years.

Fitzgibbons said Lafave had a psychiatric condition that went back several years before the incident. He was prepared to go to trial with doctors testifying about her bipolar disorder and how it affected her judgment.

Three years ago, Lafave asked Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett to commute her remaining months on house arrest to probation, as was allowed by her plea deal. She was released from house arrest in July 2008; if Padgett had denied her request, she would have remained on house arrest until Nov. 22, 2008.

In October 2009, Timmerman ruled Lafave could again have unsupervised contact with children, citing Lafave had completed court-ordered sex offender therapy.


jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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