Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Just one more question on Debra Lafave

Does anyone else's head hurt with this latest on Debra Lafave?

Though I admit my first thought at the news was: Oh happy day. She might finally go away.

Though not away-away. The notorious teacher whose blue-eyed-blonde looks sent the story of how she had sex with a 14-year-old student global managed to dodge the chance of going "away" through a plea deal in 2005 — one crafted to keep the teenager himself out of the media glare.

So here was Lafave back in court this week, cameras faithfully following, asking a judge to let her off probation four years early. Because it's darn inconvenient to be home by 10 p.m., much less to stay in Hillsborough County all the time. Though it's probably preferable to having your curfew determined by lights-out on the prison block and your travels limited by the bars of your cell.

But, hey, can't hurt to have your lawyer go in and ask, right? Worst case, the judge gives you the stink-eye and sends you home to finish your sentence like you were supposed to. And if you're really lucky, he modifies your probation to make life a little easier.

What happened was: None of the above. End your sentence years early? Sure, Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman said. Why not?

So at first I thought: Well, hallelujah. No more national coverage of this distasteful case. No more snide asides about how "lucky" the kid was. No more Hot For Teacher references lodging Van Halen in your brain all day.

But then there was the matter of that plea deal Lafave agreed to.

Yes, she completed the strict requirements of her house arrest, and her sex offender classes and community service. Yes, judges everywhere routinely end probation early.

But here's the part Timmerman did not seem to hear, though prosecutor Michael Sinacore gave it his best shot: As part of the deal that potentially kept her out of prison, she specifically agreed to fully finish her probation.

"Basically," Sinacore said to the judge, "you've told the parties the agreement did not matter," which pretty much sums it up.

Lafave's lawyer John Fitzgibbons, who earned his wages and then some here, mentioned she is a new mother with preemie twins and the judge joked with her about it. He also verbally thumbed his nose at Nancy Grace, who criticized him on CNN for accepting the deal in the first place.

And instead of being relieved at the idea of no more Lafave, I'm thinking: What is he thinking?

Will teachers suddenly feel free to have sexual relationships with students because, hey, look at the break Debbie got? No. But isn't it in part the judge's job to make sure she completes requirements of the deal — the one the victim's family signed off on in good faith?

Fun fact: It appears Lafave still can't make money selling the story of her crimes. But off probation, she is no longer barred from benefitting from her notoriety, meaning she could potentially appear on commercials, in magazines or on, I don't know, Dancing With The Defendants.

Prosecutors will ask for a stay and an appeals court review of whether a judge's decision indeed trumps a plea agreement. It deserves an answer — even if it means more Van Halen, more snide asides and more Debra Lafave.

Just one more question on Debra Lafave 09/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 10:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  2. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  3. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  4. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  5. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.