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Teacher's call to teen will go public

TAMPA — Over a defense attorney's objections about damaging pretrial publicity, the contents of a taped phone call between former teacher Stephanie Ragusa and one of her alleged student victims will be made public today.

Ragusa, 29, remains jailed, accused of having sex with two boys who attended Davidsen Middle School while she taught there.

Her attorney, Robert Herce, argued Wednesday that Ragusa wouldn't get a fair trial if a judge released before trial the details of a phone call she had with one of the boys. The boy was 14 when they began having sex and turned 15 during the relationship, sheriff's detectives say.

Herce said he will challenge the legality of how the phone recording was obtained. In court records, he said authorities left recording equipment with the teen, explained to him how to use it and asked him to record any conversations he had with Ragusa.

Herce asked for the contents to be withheld from the media until he could argue his motion to suppress.

Already, he said, the facts of Ragusa's case had received heavy news coverage.

"The way this case has been publicized, people would virtually have to shut themselves in their house, disconnect their TVs, turn off their radios and shoot the paperboy" to avoid learning about it, Herce said.

Lawyers for local media outlets opposed the defense request.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett denied it, saying he had "never had any extraordinary problem" seating a jury in his 34 years on the bench.

"It's a big county," he said. "Plenty of people out there, thousands, tens of thousands, don't read the paper or watch TV."

Prosecutors will release a redacted transcript of the phone call and sheriff's records today.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Teacher's call to teen will go public 05/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2008 1:36pm]
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