Higher bond for teacher accused of sex with students

Lakeland, FL -- The Lakeland teacher suspected of having sex with at least three of her students will have a much tougher time getting out of jail any time soon.

On Friday a judge raised Jennifer Fichter's bond by another $300,000 after a second student came forward claiming to have had sex with the 29-year-old teacher.

Dressed in jailhouse blues and facing 20 additional counts of illegal sex with a minor, Fichter seemed unfazed. Court-watchers say she even smiled when she heard about the amount of media attention her case is getting.

Fichter's attorney, Matthew Farmer repeatedly told us "no comment," declining to say anything about his client's cavalier demeanor. He had asked the judge to set Fichter's newest bond at $100,000, but prosecutors said that was not enough. They described Fichter as a predator.

"(With) the lack of safety she poses to the community, the state believes that is not sufficient," said prosecutors.

The state also mentioned the potential of more alleged victims coming forward, and recommended a bond of $300,000.

The court agreed. With her previous bond set after her arraignment on alleged victim number one, that brings Fichter's total bond to $370,000.

On Thursday, Lakeland Police said they were interviewing a potential third victim, but were letting the prosecutors decide whether to file charges in that case.

"At some point -- and that's why we're working with the State Attorney's office -- it may be prudent to use some of these victims as a witness to build a stronger case for what they already have," said Sgt. Gary Gross.

There may be a tactical advantage to labeling someone a witness rather than a victim. In the 10th Circuit of Polk County, victims can only be interviewed a total of four times. That includes police interrogations, depositions, etc.

But there is no limit on how many times a witness can be questioned for information.

Prosecutors can also take a different tact with witnesses who, at times, may be reluctant to speak. Or, as is the case here, even describe themselves as victims.

Of the three victims identified by police, said Sgt. Gross, "Some do, some don't."

Even if she posts bond in Polk County, Fichter still faces charges in Hillsborough County as well.

She was also ordered to have no communication with any witnesses or alleged victims, and not use a computer or social media.

Jennifer Fichter Timeline:

  • November 2008: Allegations in Orange County of inappropriate contact with an 8th grader.
  • December 2008: Fichter resigns from Orange County Public Schools.
  • August 2011: She's hired by Polk County Public Schools.
  • September 2011: Deputies say Fichter had sex with a 17-year-old student from Central Florida Aerospace Academy.
  • August 2012: Allegations of inappropriate Facebook contact with another 17-year-old student. Polk County Sheriff's Office investigates, but no charges are filed.
  • January to April 2014: Lakeland police say Fichter was having sex with another 17-year-old student from Central Florida Aerospace Academy.
  • April 14, 2014: Fichter is arrested and charged with 6 counts.
  • April 24, 2014: Lakeland Police interview two more potential victims
  • April 25, 2014: Fichter's bond is raised by $300,000 on new charges


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