Stephanie Ragusa pleads guilty in student sex case

9:51 AM, Apr 14, 2010   |    comments
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Video: UPDATE: Stephanie Ragusa pleads guilty

Stephanie Ragusa

Tampa, Florida --  There will be no trial in the case of a Tampa middle school teacher accused of having sex with two of her students.

31-year-old Stephanie Ragusa pleaded guilty to all three counts against her in court today. It is an open plea deal, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and 10 years probation with credit of time served.

Photo Gallery: Stephanie Ragusa pleads guilty
More Pictures: Ragusa all-smiles when in trouble with the law

When she first walked into the courtroom this morning, she hid under her long hair and turned away from cameras.  This is unlike her previous courtroom behavior, where she has been seen smiling.

"You can imagine being set for trial and either going to trial or accepting a plea agreement, there's a great deal of anxiety, stress and pressure.  There's a lot of very important decisions to make and so I think that's something that affects anyone's emotions," said her defense attorney Robert Herce.

After working out the plea deal, Ragusa turned back several times toward her father and smiled shyly back at him.

Prosecutors say they offered the deal after considering the case, her good conduct and their discussions with the victims and their families who embraced the deal.

"They're obviously relieved, they want to put this behind them and they are very interested in doing what's right," said assistant state attorney Rita Peters.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 15th. 

While the prosecution can make sentencing recommendations, Peters would not say what they are considering.  The cap is ten years.

Ragusa's attorney is expected to ask for leniency during the sentencing hearing.

"We'll hopefully address all of the issues and hopefully convince the judge she's served enough time and perhaps probation is the best way to proceed," said Herce.

Back Story:  Trial nears for Stephanie Ragusa

Ragusa, a former Davidsen Middle School teacher, is charged with multiple counts of lewd and lascivious battery, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a child and unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

Ragusa faced the charges in court Monday morning from the alleged sexual encounters with a student which began when authorities say the boy was 14 years old.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office incident report, Ragusa and the student became friends when she broke her foot and he was assigned to help her around the school in her wheelchair.

Read:  Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office incident report

The student told investigators Ragusa mentioned to him in the elevator that he was shy and she could help break him of that.  The first alleged sexual encounter happened later that day at Ragusa's apartment.  Two more encounters followed in Ragusa's Lexus SUV, authorities say.

Debra Lafave: Join a discussion about another sex teacher too pretty for prison and can have contact with minors.

Laura Kadechka, 10 Connects

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