Sunday, November 19, 2017
Public safety

Former Pasco elementary teacher gets life in prison for sex with student

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LARGO — In court to face his sentence for having sex with a student, former Pasco County elementary school teacher Michael Lander offered no public statement to the girl he abused — no explanations, no apologies.

His wife and stepdaughter were there, but they did not plead on his behalf. Far from it.

"He ripped childhood away from people and he will never understand that," his wife, Jennifer, said.

So it was largely left to attorneys to debate how to punish Lander for sexually abusing a girl he met in his fifth-grade classroom at Schrader Elementary School in Port Richey. Later, he invited the girl to live with his family in Dunedin.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Keith Meyer listened to both sides and said there was no reason to recount the "horrific set of facts" because those in court already knew them. According to court testimony, Lander coerced the girl into oral sex and had intercourse with her on her 13th birthday.

For those crimes, Meyer decided Lander should spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

"Evidence introduced in this trial is you didn't think you did anything wrong," Meyer told him. "You thought it was wholly proper for a man who was a teacher of a very young girl to go out and have a sexual relationship with that child, and that's just unacceptable."

Lander, 40, showed no emotion as the judge announced his sentence. A jury convicted him last week on two counts of illegal sexual activity and two counts of lewd or lascivious behavior.

In addition to testimony from the victim, now 18, prosecutors during the trial played a recorded phone call Lander made to his wife in which she said, "I want to know right now, yes or no. And that's all you have to say."

Lander, in an apparent admission of guilt, responded: "Yes. Once."

The victim chose not to speak Tuesday, but afterward praised prosecutors and sheriff's investigators.

Lander's wife, Jennifer, said, "He has shattered my heart, my family's heart, my children's heart, and I can't even express the amount of sympathy I have for the victim herself."

Lander's stepdaughter, Autumn Boisvert, is the same age as the victim and became friends with her. "I am just glad that he can't hurt anybody anymore," Boisvert said, "because he has done more than enough."

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