The ankle monitor has come off.
Tribune file photo by CHRIS URSO (2006)Debra Lafave won't have to wear this ankle bracelet now that she's off house arrest and on probation.
By THOMAS KRAUSE
The Tampa Tribune
July 11, 2008
Schoolteacher-turned-sex-offender Debra Lafave no longer will have to provide Florida Department of Corrections officials her daily schedule, and they no longer will keep minute-by-minute track of her whereabouts.
With Lafave having served more than 2 1/2 years of a three-year house-arrest sentence, a judge commuted the final five months to probation. She will remain on probation for seven years.
Probation officials said Lafave arrived at the Plant City probation office at 8:20 a.m. Her probation officer deactivated the ankle bracelet and cut it off. She left at 8:40 a.m.
While on house arrest, Lafave was allowed to leave home for only a few reasons, including grocery shopping and work, DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said. Lafave had to write her schedule in advance and have it approved by a probation officer, Plessinger said.
Now, Lafave will have to meet with a probation officer regularly, and an officer will come to her home, but she will not have to present schedules for approval, Plessinger said. Because Lafave is a sex offender, she will be subject to a curfew for the remainder of her probation. She must be home by 10 p.m. and cannot leave before 6 a.m., Plessinger said.
Lafave, a former English teacher at Greco Middle School, was arrested in June 2004 after a 14-year-old boy's mother called police to report that Lafave was having sex with him. Prosecutors have said the only reason they offered Lafave a plea deal was the extreme level of media coverage. The teenager's mother wanted to spare him the difficulties of testifying at trial.
The terms of Lafave's plea deal with prosecutors — inked in November 2005 — stated that she was to serve three years of house arrest and then seven years of probation. If she did not willfully violate house arrest after the first two years, she was to be allowed to ask a judge to commute the third year to probation.
While serving house arrest, Lafave had one legal incident. In December, Lafave was arrested for having inappropriate conversations with a 17-year-old girl at a restaurant where they worked. Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett determined the conversations were a violation of her house arrest but were not willful. She was not punished.
Fitzgibbons had argued to the judge that the conversations were common workplace discussions and age-appropriate.
A few months later, Fitzgibbons asked for Lafave's early release. The judge said she would be released today. All Lafave's community service is complete and all her fines are paid, Fitzgibbons said.
This morning, Lafave's former husband, Owen Lafave, appeared on the "Today" show.
Shortly before the interview, he told TBO.com that his ex-wife's sentence was "too lenient." There is one standard for female sex offenders and another for male sex offenders, he said, and that must be stopped.
His involvement with Debra Lafave brought him to the forefront of an issue that, he said, he previously ignored. Owen Lafave said he feels obligated to act as a spokesman for issues involving sex offenders.
"I've got two beautiful boys now who I want to protect," he said.
On Thursday, Debra Lafave's attorney criticized Owen Lafave for continuing to appear on television and speak publicly about his former wife, even though he has remarried and has children. Fitzgibbons said Owen Lafave needs to move on.
"John is entitled to his opinion," Owen Lafave said this morning. "This is something that happened to me in my life and, unfortunately, pushed me into the media."