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Monday, Sep 25, 2017
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Lafave gets early end of 7 years' probation

TAMPA - Nearly six years ago, a plea deal kept Debra Lafave from going to trial and potentially facing 30 years in prison. Instead, the former middle school teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student got house arrest, followed by probation. Now a judge is ending her probation four years early. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne S. Timmerman granted Lafave's request Thursday, saying she successfully fulfilled her house arrest and the majority of her time on probation.
Prosecutors said they will appeal the ruling, arguing that the plea agreement explicitly stated Lafave's probation could not be terminated early. If they win that appeal, they said, her probation would be reinstated. Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said that as an engaged mother of twin boys, Lafave hopes to put the criminal sentence behind her and move on with life. Lafave, 31, had not been allowed to leave Hillsborough County and had a curfew preventing her from leaving home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Her probation wasn't set to end until Nov. 21, 2015. Fitzgibbons said his client has done everything asked of her, from community service hours to completing sex offender therapy to paying restitution. She sees a psychiatrist regularly. Lafave didn't comment. Assistant State Attorney Mike Sinacore said the victim's family opposed her being taken off probation. "The reason for probation is punishment," Sinacore told the court, "and this is the punishment she's getting. Her reward for doing well is she's not in prison." The victim now is 21. He graduated from high school, has been in and out of college and is in community college. His sister testified that the incident has devastated her brother's life and that he has undergone psychiatric treatment. Lafave, a former English teacher at Greco Middle School, was arrested in June 2004 after the 14-year-old boy's mother called police to report that Lafave was having sex with him. Under the terms of Lafave's original deal with prosecutors, signed on Nov. 22, 2005, she was to serve three years of house arrest, then seven years of probation. If she completed the first two years of house arrest without incident, she would be able to request that the third year be served as probation. Fitzgibbons said Lafave had a psychiatric condition that went back several years before the incident. He was prepared to go to trial with doctors testifying about her bipolar disorder and how it affected her judgment. Three years ago, Lafave asked Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett to commute her remaining months on house arrest to probation, as was allowed by her plea deal. She was released from house arrest in July 2008. In October 2009, Timmerman ruled that Lafave again could have unsupervised contact with children, saying Lafave had completed court-ordered sex offender therapy.

jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691
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