Leave Debra Alone, Already

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Last week, a Florida county judge rejected former
teacher Debra LaFave’s plea bargain, raising the specter of a trial
in the sensational case — a trial no one wants.

In case you’ve been in a long-term coma, Debra
LaFave, an attractive 23-year-old Tampa, Florida area reading teacher,
was charged in June, 2004 with various crimes, because she allegedly
had sex several times with a 14-year-old boy. She was arrested,
strip-searched, and her nether-regions were photographed (for necessary
evidentiary purposes, of course). Saucy photos of her posing in
a motorcycle magazine were discovered and posted on the internet.
The story was all over cable TV, night after night. Her cuckolded
husband has appeared on several TV news shows, showing little sympathy.
Her lawyer eventually announced plans to use an insanity defense
at trial, and there was no sign of a plea bargain, until….

In late November of this year, a plea bargain
was reached between the district attorney’s office and her common
sense-less defense attorney, who had previously been videotaped
stating that Debra was too attractive to go to prison, implying
that she'd be, at minimum, figuratively eaten alive by packs of
burly prison-mates. This may, in fact, be a realistic assessment,
but announcing it to the world — while your pretty client is standing
right there at your side — shows a severe lack of judgment. Debra
was there again by his side, smiling sweetly, when he announced
the plea deal, which was almost certain to outrage her detractors.
(Lightning strikes twice….)

The plea bargain wasn’t much of a bargain, in
my opinion. Ms. LaFave would have had to lose her teaching license
forever, endure three years of house arrest, and then seven years
of probation. She would have had to register with the state as a
sexual predator, and not have any contact with any children on the
planet. She wouldn’t be allowed to profit from the sale of her story
or personal appearances. How is this a great deal for the woman?
Yes, she avoids incarceration, but how is she supposed to earn a

The claws of cable TV’s newswomen sprang out
like those of jungle cats last week, at the news of the junked plea
bargain. Nancy Grace of CNN, in particular, had nothing but hysterical
venom for Debra, as
if she were evil incarnate
: “… This grade school teacher had
a schoolboy in the back of an SUV, having full-blown sex with an
underage child. She went across the county lines from Hillsborough
to Marion. OK. The Hillsborough judge swallowed the deal, again,
like it was chocolate pudding. It tasted great going down. The Marion
County judge said, Oh, no, no, no, no, no. No, no. This is sex with
a minor. You`re not getting straight probation.”

I’m not saying that I approve of sex between
an adult and a minor, but keep in mind that this minor was of the
opposite gender, and well into puberty. Inasmuch as a 14-year-old
can give consent, he obviously gave it. Okay, Debra seems a little
wacky, but like it or not, being seduced by a young blonde bombshell
is not the same as a 300-lb. middle-aged spinster forcing herself
on a timid “bookworm” type of adolescent. To me, it seems fairly
obvious that your gender pretty much determines your view of this

Sure, Debra made a serious mistake; she had
sex with a boy. She is obviously not a sexual predator, however,
and a few years of probation would be penalty enough for her. Instead,
a year-and-a-half after the misconduct, she continues to be hounded,
because of a little tyrant on a bench somewhere in Florida. By the
way, I haven’t seen or heard any information about the “honorable”
judge. I wonder what crimes he’s committed over the years, in the
name of justice or not, with the impunity provided by his black
robe? Why aren’t the news media saying anything about him?

It was all settled; case closed. Then some local
judge, with a bug up his butt or a Puritanical streak in his spine,
decided in petty fury he wouldn’t accept the deal. This was the
first time I, and doubtless other Americans, learned that judges
have the power to disapprove of plea bargains. Whether or not you
approve of plea bargains, I fail to understand why the judge, essentially
a third party, should have any input into these commonplace negotiations.
In any case, he is a fool if he thinks any jury with half a dozen
normal men on it will convict Ms. LaFave.

Even the victim’s mother has come out against
a trial, fearing that it would hinder her son’s potential for a
normal life going forward. So no one wants it, except some obscure,
minor league jurist, sitting behind the aegis of a judicial bench
(who, I suspect, secretly wants to get a look at the nude “evidentiary”
photos and pound his gavel) and, of course, the entertainment/news
media, and voyeurs like myself.

The only thing that can emerge from this trial,
should it come to pass, is another exposé of the pathetic
nature of our legal system. This would be the biggest farce since
the O.J. Simpson trial, and everyone on Earth would once again see
how stupid and broken our criminal justice system really is. The
only way to avoid it is to leave Debra alone, already.

15, 2005

S. Fischer has worked in various fields.

S. Fischer

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