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Former Pasco County substitute teacher gets probation for sex with teen

Lisa Marinelli, 41, center, pleaded guilty Friday morning to charges that she had sex with a 16-year-old student. The former Pasco County substitute teacher faced up to 15 years in prison but avoided any time behind bars.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Lisa Marinelli, 41, center, pleaded guilty Friday morning to charges that she had sex with a 16-year-old student. The former Pasco County substitute teacher faced up to 15 years in prison but avoided any time behind bars.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Lisa Marinelli, a former Pasco County substitute teacher, pleaded guilty Friday to having a sexual relationship with a student last year but avoided any time behind bars.

Marinelli faced a maximum of 15 years in prison, and according to sentencing guidelines, a minimum of six.

Instead, prosecutors and her defense attorney agreed to a stringent probationary sentence that includes a year of house arrest and no contact with children under 18 without supervision.

The married mother of two also will have to register as a sex offender, undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases and complete sex offender treatment. She can't live within 1,000 feet of a school or any place where children congregate, save the school bus stop near her house in Fairway Springs.

Marinelli, now 41, fell under suspicion in February 2008 when the victim's father reported to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office that he saw his son get out of Marinelli's car pulling his pants up. They were in the backseat.

The boy, who was 16 then, told detectives he and Marinelli had been seeing each other for about two months.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the relationship started out innocently. Marinelli was looking for a boyfriend for her daughter, then a 15-year-old student at Mitchell High School in Trinity.

After Marinelli told the boy he was "on the list" of potential suitors, the two began spending time together.

He was invited to her home on multiple occasions. At one point, according to an affidavit, they drove to a location in the nearby Longleaf subdivision and made out. During this encounter, Marinelli said several times, "This is bad," and that she should not be doing it, a sheriff's report says.

After that, the pair saw each other regularly. Some time in early January 2008, authorities say, Marinelli and the student had sex at her home. Authorities say the two had sex about 10 more times after that.

The boy's father turned over records of hundreds of cell phone calls and text messages between Marinelli and the boy to investigators. In one from Marinelli to the boy, she wrote "U can meet me at home at 3. Real men only need 20 min!"

Another, according to the Sheriff's Office, said, "How about a quickie 2 tomorrow afternoon?"

Before her March 24, 2008, arrest on charges of unlawful sex with a minor, Marinelli had attended two days of substitute training and worked 113 days as a substitute, mostly at Mitchell High but also at Seven Springs Middle.

Her background check turned up no criminal record. Once the school district learned the Sheriff's Office was investigating Marinelli, it removed her from its substitute list.

Neither she nor the victim, whose name is being withheld, spoke after Friday's hearing.

Prosecutor Eva Vergos said the state agreed to keep Marinelli out of prison to spare the victim, now 18, from going through a trial.

"He wasn't deposed," Vergos said. "He wasn't required to be present for all the things that are usually required. Sometimes that's the goal."

Kevin Piccarreto, Marinelli's attorney, said she is relieved to put the case behind her.

"She felt her family couldn't take any more of this," he said.

Marinelli joined a dubious list of educators accused in recent years of having inappropriate relationships with students.

Their sentences have varied widely.

Former Hillsborough County middle school teacher Debra Lafave, convicted in 2005 of having sex with a 14-year-old student, was given three years of house arrest, followed by probation. She was let off house arrest early.

Michael Aaron Black, the former band director at Pasco Middle School in Dade City, is spending 22 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with a seventh-grader.

Former Pasco County substitute teacher gets probation for sex with teen 04/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 7:28am]
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