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Teacher in sex case writes Bollea

A former Hillsborough County teacher accused of having sex with middle school students is reaching out to Pinellas County's most famous juvenile inmate.

On June 2, Stephanie Ragusa wrote a letter of support to Nick Bollea, 17, who is serving an eight-month sentence on a charge of reckless driving with serious bodily injury.

"I can sympathize with the dynamics of your case, esp. in light of the public," wrote Ragusa, 29, a former Davidsen Middle School teacher who is in the Hillsborough County Jail awaiting trial. "It's not us, Nick, but something 'off' with society, that our situations garner more attention + print than the president, the election, or even an earthquake killing thousands," she wrote. "Nothing prepares you for nor prevents it; sensationalism."

The letter was intercepted by Pinellas County sheriff's deputies after they recognized Ragusa's name, the return address of the Falkenburg Road jail and her docket number on the envelope.

The deputies contacted Hillsborough County officials because they weren't sure if Ragusa was allowed to have contact with a minor, said Cecilia Barreda, a Pinellas sheriff's office spokeswoman.

Ragusa faces charges of lewd or lascivious battery and unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

Bollea, the son of famed wrestler Hulk Hogan, was later given a copy of the letter.

Kevin Hayslett, one of Bollea's attorneys, said his client has no plans to continue the correspondence.

"Nick has no desire to be Stephanie Ragusa's pen pal," Hayslett said.

Robert Herce, Ragusa's attorney, could not be reached for comment Friday.

J.D. Callaway, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, said Ragusa doesn't appear to have broken any rules.

"She's only restricted from contacting witnesses or the victims in her pending criminal cases," he said. "At this time it was completely legal for her to send a letter to Nick Bollea."

Inmate correspondence is not generally logged or monitored, said Col. David Parrish, the agency's detention commander.

Although Hillsborough inmates are not supposed to write other Hillsborough inmates, there are no restrictions about an inmate writing to another inmate at a different facility.

"I've got 3,700 inmates and I don't know who's writing to whom," Parrish said. "We don't censor outgoing mail, we just check incoming mail with regard to contraband."

Ragusa ended her letter to Bollea with words of inspiration.

"I have no doubt that you will rise above your current surroundings having experienced a personal inner growth known only to yourself in these many hours of isolation," Ragusa wrote. "You remain in my prayers."

Elisabeth Dyer contributed to this report. Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at (727)445-4181 or tel-khoury@sptimes.com.

Teacher in sex case writes Bollea 06/06/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 1:19pm]
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