Ex-teacher Ragusa gets decade in prison

June 29th, 2010 by Staff

TAMPA – A former teacher was sentenced this afternoon to a decade in prison for having sexual relationships with two students, bringing the high-profile case to a close.

Stephanie Ragusa agreed two months ago to plead guilty to three counts of lewd and lascivious battery and two counts of unlawful sex with a minor in exchange for the sentence imposed Monday by Judge Chet Tharpe.

That sentencing followed a presentation by prosecutors that included a recorded phone call between Ragusa and one of the Davidsen Middle School students in which she acknowledged that their relationship was illegal.

The mother of one of the students testified that Ragusa spent an unusual amount of time with her so, starting when he was 14 years old.

“She basically introduced herself by calling me and taking special interest in his needs,” said the woman, whom FOX 13 chose not to identify. “She would call a couple times a week but that didn’t last long because I started feeling funny about the situation.”

Ragusa’s attorney called several witnesses in defense of his client, including her psychiatrist and father.

Ragusa herself stood before the judge and, in a quivering voice, thanked her family and friends for support before apologizing.

“I stand here today willing to take responsibility for my actions,” she said. “I’m sincerely sorry for the pain and aggravation I have caused to the victims and their families.”

But her words were not enough to sway the judge to lighten her sentence. Judge Tharpe blasted Ragusa as “arrogant” and “selfish.”

“We have laws in this state to protect children because children cannot protect themselves,” Tharpe said while levying the full 10-year sentence allowed by the plea deal. “You are a teacher and as parent, we place our trust in teachers to provide a safe environment in which our children can learn. You violated that trust in the worst imaginable way.”

“I honestly believe, Ms. Ragusa, that you are a sexual predator and I honestly believe that you are a danger to the children in this community.”

In addition to the 10 years in prison, Ragusa will be on probation as a sexual offender for 15 years, meaning she must stay away from schools and other locations where children gather.

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