Stephanie Ragusa sentenced to 10 years in prison, 15 years probation

11:56 PM, Jun 28, 2010   |    comments
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Video: Teacher Stephanie Ragusa sentenced

Stephanie Ragusa

In 2008, Hillsborough County school teacher Stephanie Ragusa had been charged with having sexual relationships with two underage students.

A transcript of telephone conversations between Ragusa and the students was released.

Click here to read the transcript. (PDF)

 

Officials also released numerous other documents related to the case. Click on the links below to read them. (PDF)

Tampa, Florida -- "I never intended to harm anyone."

In a Hillsborough courtroom Monday, Stephanie Ragusa asked the judge for mercy.

Ragusa apologized to her young victims and their families Monday, two years after she was charged with having sex with two boys, ages 14 and 16 - something Ragusa admitted to back in April of this year.

Ragusa's attorney presented a psychiatrist as a witness who testified mental illness may have led to that risky behavior.  The doctor said she is bi-polar but is better now with medication.

Ragusa's father also took the stand and begged the judge for mercy.  He told the court that his daughter was needed at home, especially by her autistic brother.  "I apologize to the families.  Please let my daughter come home."

The mother of a 14-year-old boy who Ragusa admitted to having a sexual relationship with, also took the stand.

Daisy Heredia said she felt Ragusa targeted her victims, that she had access to their charts and records.  She added, "I feel she was very conniving in picking these boys out."

The judge also listened to a tape recorded conversation between Ragusa and one of her victims.

Judge Chet Tharpe sided with the victims in this case, calling Ragusa arrogant and selfish.  "You have disgraced yourself, family and the teaching profession," Tharpe said.

He sentenced Ragusa to 10 years in prison and 15 years of strict probation - the maximum allowed by the plea deal.

Ragusa's attorney said, his clients behavior before the trial didn't help her.  "The big aggravating factor while out on bond for a sexual offense was that she has got caught at one of the kids' house."

Prosecutor Rita Peters who heads the Sex Offender Division said the sentence sends a message to the community.  "We hold our teachers as our heroes and when someone like Stephanie Ragusa throws that trust out the window, it will not be tolerated," said Peters.

Stephanie Ragusa pleaded guilty back in April to having sex with two teenaged students as part of  deal with prosecutors.  The judge could have punished her with anything from probation to 10 years in prison.

At the time of her arrest, she was a teacher at Tampa's Martinez Middle School, but she had met her victims while teaching at Davidsen Middle.

The sentence was a stunner, especially in light of cases like Debra LaFave.  She is the teacher whose lawyer called her "too pretty for prison" after having sex with a student.  She was sentenced to just three years of house arrest.

Join a discusssion about the sentence with other parents on MomsLikeMe.com.

Kathryn Bursch, 10 Connects Reporter

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