Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

Ex-teacher Debra Lafave back on probation

TAMPA — Debra Lafave is back on probation.

Lafave, a platinum blond, blue-eyed former Greco Middle School teacher, made national headlines for having sex with a 14-year-old male student in 2004. She pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery, and in 2005 was sentenced to three years' house arrest and seven years' probation.

But in 2011, a soon-to-retire judge offered leniency to Lafave, a new mother of twins. He released her from probation, despite protests from the victim's family and prosecutors.

In August, an appellate court ruled that judge's decision had been an "abuse of judicial power resulting in a gross miscarriage of justice." It reinstated her probation Dec. 19.

However, the 2nd District Court of Appeal said it wasn't sure it had the authority to do so. It asked the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in.

In the meantime, because of what Assistant State Attorney Mike Sinacore called a "highly unusual" series of events, authorities scheduled a hearing to make it clear: Lafave is indeed on probation, scheduled to last four more years.

After the hearing, Lafave, 32, spoke briefly to reporters. She said she was thankful for the year she had without probation. She was able to take her mother — who was diagnosed with cancer for the second time — to chemotherapy and doctor appointments, she said.

"I was so thankful I was able to spend that time with her," Lafave said.

Her reinstated terms of probation include a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the requirement that she stay away from places children congregate, including parks.

When asked whether that would have an impact on Lafave's caring for her two young children, Lafave said "no."

Thursday's hearing comes a month after the Florida Supreme Court denied Lafave's request for termination of her probation — at least until it heard her case.

In a one-line order filed in December, the Florida Supreme Court said the probation would not do "irreparable harm" to Lafave.

"(Lafave) does not face incarceration," the response stated, "only a return to the probationary terms which she originally agreed upon."

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear her case, and Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said he hopes that will happen within the next six months to a year.

"That should finally conclude things," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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