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Sex Scandals in the Schoolhouse
Aired December 27, 2006 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: A scandal that continues to shock communities across the map over and over: children, juveniles, as victims by those we trust the most, teachers.
Tonight: a look at female teachers charged with sex assaults on underage students. They call it teacher-student sex scandals. I call it felony child molestation.
First: She makes international headlines for repeatedly assaulting a 14-year-old student at her own school, the Florida teacher lawyers said was too pretty for jail, the infamous Debra Lafave.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Twenty-five- year-old Debra Lafave might have gone to prison. But the former Tampa middle school teacher, charged with engaging in various sex acts with a 14- year-old student, and already serving a sentence of house arrest for the crime in one Florida county, walked out of court -- the same charges dropped in a second county.
DEBRA LAFAVE, FORMER TEACHER: The past two years have been hard on all parties involved. I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. Again, I offer my deepest apology.
ZARRELLA: The young teacher`s life went instantly from the obscure to obscene, with the accusations and charges of sex with a student two years ago. Lafave says she is undergoing therapy now for bipolar disorder, which she claims led to her actions.
D. LAFAVE: I believe that I -- my mental illness had a lot to do with my actions. And for someone -- I have gotten -- my passion was teaching. That is taken away from me. I have lost family, and I have lost friends. And, as you see, my face has been plastered on every Internet address, every news outlet.
ZARRELLA: The court`s ruling today does not mean Lafave is free. She had been brought up on the same charges in two Florida counties, because she had allegedly engaged in sex acts with the boy in both, at the school and in her house in Tampa, in the back of a car in Marion County.
A plea deal was sculpted for both courts, three years house arrest, seven years probation. The deal went through in Tampa, but not in Marion County. The judge there rejected it, because Lafave would not get prison time.
So, rather than go to trial, where the victim would have to testify, prosecutors dropped the case. Lafave says what hurts her most is what the sensationalism of the case has done to the victim`s life.
D. LAFAVE: He is a young man. And his privacy has been violated. He has walked outside the door and been approached by media. His picture was published on the Internet. That`s what I`m talking about.
ZARRELLA: Well before this latest decision, the boy`s family was ready to put the headlines behind them for good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This would follow him forever. And my prayer is that he can leave this behind him.
ZARRELLA: Debra Lafave wants to move on, too.
D. LAFAVE: I am a strong Christian woman. And I believe that God has a path for me. And this was just a bump in the road.
ZARRELLA: Her marriage to Owen Lafave disintegrated into divorce, after the case against her took shape. Now she`s engaged to be married again.
D. LAFAVE: His support is unconditional. And I have known him for 20 years now. And he has proved that he loves me unconditionally. And we`re just going to take it day by day.
ZARRELLA: If you ask the victim and his family, it`s the same for them, just trying to get on with their lives.
John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.
GRACE: Let`s go straight out to News Radio 970, WFLA reporter Eben Brown.
Welcome back, Eben.
Just last night, we were proud in the thought that the judge would take a stand and not allow straight probation and house arrest for a woman that`s already pled to sex with a child student in another jurisdiction. And now, in a stunning about-face, the state basically thumbs their nose and says, ninny-ninny, boo-boo. Judge, if you won`t take our sweetheart deal, we`re just going to pack up and go home and drop the case.
Please tell me I`m wrong, Eben.
EBEN BROWN, NEWSRADIO 970 WFLA: Sounds you`ve got it right there. But the prosecutors wanted to make this easy on the mother of the victim and the victim themselves. And they didn`t want to put the boy on trial.
GRACE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait.
GRACE: Make it easy on them.
Question to you, Eben. I know you are a veteran reporter, but who has ever said that a felony rape trial, a statutory rape trial -- that`s what this is -- is easy on anybody? You think I, as a former prosecutor, liked putting a child on a stand, watching them cry, watching them be upset, watching them stumble and fall and subject themselves to cross-examination?
You think it is easy for a victim, Eben? No, it is not easy for anybody. But justice has a price, Eben.
BROWN: Well, prosecutors wanted to make sure that a victim didn`t have to pay the price twice. And they decided it was better not to have a trial at all.
GRACE: You know what?
BROWN: She`s already getting the punishment of her plea deal from the other jurisdictions.
GRACE: Which is straight probation and house arrest, wearing an anklet, right?
BROWN: And registry as a sex offender.
GRACE: Oh, OK. Thanks.
Very quickly to psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall.
Let`s talk about Eben Brown`s last statement. And Eben`s not making this up. This is what the...
BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Right.
GRACE: ... the defendant`s family and the defendant and her defense team gave to the judge. All right. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
Bethany, take a listen to the defendant, Debra Lafave, model-turned- teacher, convicted child sex offender. Listen to what she had to say.
GRACE: Roll it, Liz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. LAFAVE: The past two years have been hard on all parties involved. I pray, with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. Again, I offer my deepest apology.
I want the world to see that bipolar is real. If anything, I am tired of the media -- I don`t think not one time has the media brought up the subject of my bipolar. And I challenge you to read a book or an article on bipolar illness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: I read the book. This can`t possibly be bipolar. Bipolar says drastically increased activity level. And, according to the police report, Bethany Marshall, she had a very high activity level, including in the back seat of a truck, where the truckers were going by -- woo, woo -- they could look right in.
MARSHALL: Well, with bipolar, there is hypersexuality. There is dis- inhibition. There`s a lot of activity.
But you can be bipolar and have a conscience. I think it is very important for people to know that. And, on behalf of mentally ill people, I want to say that just because you have a mental illness doesn`t mean that you can no longer distinguish right from wrong.
And the other thing is, bipolar illness is one thing. Pedophilia is another. And it is possible to be bipolar and to be a pedophile. And the two illnesses are intertwined, but being bipolar does not necessarily lead to the other. And because you`re hypersexual during a manic episode doesn`t mean that you will automatically pick a child victim.
GRACE: Bethany, Bethany, Bethany, I respect you deeply.
Everyone, Bethany Marshall is a renowned psychoanalyst.
But, when you say hypersexuality, that has nothing to do with statutory rape, in other words, rape of a child. Whether they consent or not, having full-blown sex with a child is statutory rape.
MARSHALL: That`s right.
That`s why I am saying bipolar illness and child molestation -- or -- excuse me -- bipolar illness and being a pedophile are two different things. So, even though she is bipolar, it doesn`t excuse her from what her pedophilia led her to do.
GRACE: Let`s take another listen to what Deb Lafave had to say in court.
And, if any of you have not heard the breaking news out of a Florida courtroom today, the judge was basically shackled by the defense and the prosecution, when he refused their sweetheart deal against this cover girl- turned-teacher, a convicted child sex offender. The state dropped the charges. Here is what Debra Lafave had to say in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D. LAFAVE: I`m a strong Christian woman, and I believe that God has a path for me. And this was just a bump in the road.
Right now, I am going through a class that`s online for journalism. I think that I have -- God has given me a great outlet to write. And I would hope that I could reach people through writing.
My passion was teaching. That`s taken away from me. I have lost family and I have lost friends. And, as you can see, my face has been plastered on every Internet address, every news outlet. And that`s not easy. It`s not easy feeling the guilt and the remorse, and having my own family suffer for my -- my actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: To veteran defense attorney Ray Giudice.
It is all me, me, me, me, me, me, nothing about the fact that she is a convicted child sex offender.
RAY GIUDICE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, if the roles were switched here, and I had a 26-year-old man and 14-year-old girl, and I argued on his behalf that he was bipolar and in the midst of hypersexual activity, that would probably get me disbarred, with all respect...
GRACE: And tarred and feathered, and ran out of town.
GIUDICE: With all respect to our doctor.
But the focus on this evening`s show, if you don`t mind me saying, should be that the prosecution dropped the ball. Don`t blame the defense lawyer. He did his job. Don`t blame the judge. He stood and towed the line that you asked him to last night. Clearly, the prosecution wasn`t ready to move forward.
GRACE: Well, hold on a moment before -- I`m not disagreeing with you that the state should have taken this to trial.
But, on the other hand, I want to go to Robyn Tomlin, executive editor with "The Star-Banner." She has communicated with this boy victim`s mother.
The state would have to go forward, Robyn, without the cooperation of the boy`s mother, correct?
ROBYN TOMLIN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "STAR-BANNER": Well, the boy`s mother is -- was not wanting the boy to have to testify in court.
GRACE: So, would the boy have testified, even though the mom did not want him to?
TOMLIN: Well, that`s -- you know, that`s unclear.
Truthfully, that`s not something that we asked her. Our reporter Mabel Perez spoke to her this weekend and then again spoke to her this afternoon, after this -- this ruling. And, you know, she`s really disappointed with the ruling and is upset with the judge...
GRACE: What? What? But she`s the one that didn`t want to put her son on the stand. How can she possibly disagree with Judge Stancil?
TOMLIN: She is upset with the judge because she believes that he is attacking the prosecution, and -- and, in this case, her son for not wanting to accept a deal that she thinks was in the best interests of her son.
GRACE: Next: Deb Lafave`s sweetheart plea deal. And her former husband speaks out.
GRACE: Lafave`s lawyer announced she was too pretty to go to jail.
Florida teacher Debra Lafave, indicted with repeat molestation on an underage student, ends up with a sweetheart deal: house arrest. No doubt there`s a double standard when female teachers are doing the molesting. Lafave`s former husband, Owen Lafave, speaks out on the scandal that rocked his life, describing his wife as a gorgeous disaster.
OWEN LAFAVE, AUTHOR, "GORGEOUS DISASTER": This is something that deeply impacted my life and changed the way that I perceive life.
But, really, what it comes down to is, we`ve got a problem in our society and we`ve got a problem in our schools. And, by writing the book, I`m hoping to create the awareness, that people realize. I mean, every time you turn on the news, it seems like, every week, there`s a new case. And it just seems to never cease.
And I think, you know, there`s a double standard when it comes to the sentencing of female sexual offenders. And I think a lot of that has to do with people don`t perceive the boy as a victim. And I truly believe they are victims.
GRACE: I want to go back and start at the beginning. How did you and Lafave meet?
OWEN LAFAVE: We actually knew each other in high school. And we didn`t date. We had a mutual flirtation. But we actually met back up in college, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. And that`s when we started dating.
GRACE: When you first saw her, did you have an immediate and instant attraction?
OWEN LAFAVE: You know, it was. And the funny thing was, is, when we saw her on campus, I didn`t know it was her. I offered to introduce her to one of my friends. And, then, when I tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned around, I realized it was Debbie.
And, yes, I mean, there was an instantaneous attraction there.
GRACE: Then what happened?
OWEN LAFAVE: You know, I invited her outside. We were actually at a Subway sandwich shop. And, you know, we sat there for the rest of the afternoon and just -- you know, skipped a couple classes and talked. And I guess what struck me at the time was, you know, not only did I think she was attractive, but she seemed very intelligent and someone of substance.
And, you know, it was a good combination.
GRACE: So, you were in college? You were college sweethearts?
OWEN LAFAVE: Mmm-hmm.
GRACE: What struck you the most about Lafave?
OWEN LAFAVE: Really, just how compassionate and caring a person she was. I mean, she had very much a sweet and endearing side to her that, you know, in the media is not apparent, especially by her interviews isn`t. But she did have a sweet side.
GRACE: Well, you know, even a Frankenstein had a sweet side.
OWEN LAFAVE: That`s very true.
GRACE: And, so, what do you want meet to do with that, really, Owen? You`re saying she had a sweet side. What am I supposed to do with that, really? I mean, this woman is -- was a teacher and entrusted to take care of students, of young people, and she repeatedly had sex with a minor, a little boy.
OWEN LAFAVE: Well, you know, I`m not making excuses for her.
GRACE: Well, it kind of sounds like you are.
OWEN LAFAVE: You know, I`m not. But I want people to know that she did have a sweet side for me. I mean, after all, I did marry her. This is someone that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
And, you know, it caught me by surprise. I was, you know, devastated by it. I mean, that`s why I`m here.
GRACE: Did you ever see symptoms of bipolar, which has now become her excuse?
OWEN LAFAVE: You know, it`s -- that`s hard to say. You know, I`m not a psychologist. This is someone who definitely had some emotional issues. You know, she suffered with anxiety, and she had an eating disorder.
GRACE: Well, we all have anxiety.
OWEN LAFAVE: You know, we do. We do.
GRACE: What eating disorder?
OWEN LAFAVE: She was anorexic. And, you know, that`s actually very common for people that are abused. And so is abusing...
GRACE: What do you mean by anorexic?
OWEN LAFAVE: She refused to eat. She wouldn`t eat, you know, essentially, all day long, would just nitpick, trying to lose weight. And she -- you know, she had body images, which, you know, again, a lot of us do.
But, I mean, with her, it was a little bit more to the extreme.
GRACE: When you heard this comment that your wife was to pretty to go to jail, after molesting a child, what was your response?
OWEN LAFAVE: Well, I think it`s ridiculous. I mean, I think it was legal strategy. And who knows if he really meant it or not. But, you know, I think a lot of people believed it. And after all, I mean, the only reason that I am here on set talking to you is because she`s attractive.
GRACE: No, I disagree. The reason that you`re here is not only because of your book, which gives remedies to address teachers molesting students, but because this is an ever-growing trend. And she is the poster girl for teachers molesting students.
I want to go back to your original meeting with her. When did it dawn on you that this woman, that would eventually become a convicted child molester, was the one, the one and only, out of the millions of people on this Earth, that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?
OWEN LAFAVE: Well, you know, it`s kind of funny. I`m almost embarrassed to say.
I mean, hindsight is 20/20. And when we met. We were young. We were in college. And I think, you know, we kind of just followed the plan of life. We were in college, graduated, gotten engaged, got married. It seemed like the right thing to do.
And, I mean, don`t get me wrong. I mean, I was absolutely head over heels for her. You know, I was in love with her, and thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. But, you know, there wasn`t one particular moment. I mean, it was a process.
GRACE: When did you propose?
OWEN LAFAVE: I proposed three years after we dated.
GRACE: How did you propose?
OWEN LAFAVE: I proposed in New Orleans. I worked at a bank at the time and made up a story about how I had a loan closing that I had to do in New Orleans and flew her out there. And I did it on a horse-drawn carriage.
GRACE: Did she immediately say yes?
OWEN LAFAVE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it was really, you know, picture perfect.
GRACE: When we come back: Another teacher-student sex scandal takes a close-knit Colorado community by storm.
GRACE: The Colorado community of Brighton shocked when a social studies teacher and cheerleading coach catches a felony charge of assault on a student. And, in a bizarre twist, the accused teacher, Carrie McCandless, is also the principal`s wife.
CHRIS BARGE, "ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS": The story is that Carrie McCandless is charged now. And she turned herself in this morning. The charges are that she was up on a camping trip. She was the sole chaperone with this charter school, and that she had an inappropriate relationship in a room up at the YMCA of the Rockies.
This took about a week to break. It actually didn`t break until a news reporter called up the police and said, what do we do about this?
And they said, first we`ve heard.
The update today is that not only has she been arrested, but also the president of the board of the charter school has been arrested for failing to report and, also, for possibly tampering with a witness, which would be a felony.
PAT LALAMA, GUEST HOST: All right.
Now, Jean Casarez, Court TV, I`m sorry. This is just so bizarre to me. We`ve got the 29-year-old who`s married to the principal. Then, we have the -- now, let me get this straight -- the chairman of the board of the charter school, who just faced his own charges today for not calling the cops fast enough. And it turns out that his own son, who was once a substitute teacher there, also pled guilty at one time to molesting children, not while he was a teacher, but while he was a firefighter.
Do I have that straight?
JEAN CASAREZ, COURT TV: This is very complicated. It gets very complex. He was -- now, we`re talking about the son of the school board president.
CASAREZ: He was a substitute teacher, and he met some females while he was a substitute teacher. When he was no longer that substitute teacher, he actually spent New Year`s Eve of last year with three of the females, ages 14 through 16. He has now pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He won`t be sentenced until January, but he`s facing 12 years himself.
LALAMA: Mike Brooks, you with us?
MIKE BROOKS, SECURITY ANALYST: Yes.
LALAMA: Police officer, you`ve seen these kinds of cases come fast and hard to us lately. What in the world`s going on? And what do we do with this case?
BROOKS: I`ll tell you what, this school is just a mess, Pat.
BROOKS: Good God, the players you`ve got involved in this.
BROOKS: You know, and one of the things I`d be interested in founding out, on the father`s charges of failure to report child abuse and neglect, which is a class-three misdemeanor, as well as tampering with a witness or victim, which is a class-four felony, did any of this also possibly involve his son`s case? That would be a question I would also have.
I talked to the Brighton police today. And they would not tell me exactly what probable cause they had. But that, again, when he goes to court, that will be unsealed. But it`s going to be very anxious to see if it is involving just this case, or it possibly could be involving his son`s case.
LALAMA: You know, I was hearing just the other day one of the talk shows here in L.A., where -- swear to heavens -- the talk show host -- and this was a serious talk show host, not a game show or a fun show or anything like that show -- said: "Wow. You know, she`s so attractive. Tell me that boy isn`t smiling."
I mean, please, you know? And, then, if it`s a teacher who`s not attractive, then, oh, that`s child abuse.
What kind of double standard really does exist in the world today on these cases?
DR. LILLIAN GLASS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, that`s a really good question. And there have been studies out there that show that, when a person looks attractive, they`re perceived as being less guilty of a crime, less problematic than those people that are not as attractive. And even though it`s not fair, it`s a reality.
So, when people are looking at this very attractive woman, who`s done this to this child, oh, well, it`s OK, and vice versa. If she was unattractive, it would be, oh, that is a terrible thing.
GLASS: So, there`s a lot of prejudice when it comes to people`s appearances.
LALAMA: All right, Chris, but let me ask you, do you know anything about the reaction to this young man, this teenager? Is he traumatized, do we know? Is he -- you know, what do we know about him?
BARGE: Yes, the only thing I could get there was the police chief last week told me that, you know, he was reluctant to be interviewed, that he was understandably confused over the circumstances. And, so, you can read into that what you want to.
But, basically, we`re -- we`re hearing that this was pretty difficult to investigate. That, combined with some sluggishness, to say the least, on the part of the school and others to report this, this story is coming out slowly.
GRACE: Next: a Tennessee teacher already busted for raping a 13-year- old boy ends up in more trouble, because she refuses to stay away from the victim.
GRACE: Reading, writing, arithmetic, but that`s not all. Tennessee schoolteacher Pam Rogers winds up behind bars for the statutory rape of a child. Determined to continue the relationship, even after she`s caught, Rogers put back in jail -- where she belongs -- after continuing to send graphic cell phone videos to the same little boy.
LALAMA: Well, all right. You know that Pamela Rogers was released three months early from jail, in February, for good behavior. But apparently...
GRACE: Uh! Uh! Uh!
LALAMA: ... when she`s bad, she`s very bad.
GRACE: Mistake! Mistake!
LALAMA: What`s a mistake?
GRACE: No, mistake for letting her out early. Let her out early for what?
LALAMA: Oh, OK. Well, because she was good because...
GRACE: Good at what?
LALAMA: Well, Lord only knows. But when she`s bad, she`s bad. Now, here`s what happened. April 11th, she gets arrested because she`s created Web sites to try to contact her young victim. Well, then she gets arrested. And then the cops say, You know what? Let`s go further. Let`s get a warrant and figure out what else she might be doing.
And sure enough, text messages, nude photos, videos. As you said, the rest is history. It seems like all she`s got left now is smoke signals.
But the deal is, she could now jeopardize her future and her freedom because she might have to serve the rest of that eight-year sentence. And you know what, Nancy? I`m told it`s possible that some of these actions could be, in fact, new felonies.
GRACE: OK, let me get this straight. She was accused of statutory rape, Pat Lalama. She went behind bars. Was there a conviction or was -- was she waiting for to go to trial?
LALAMA: All right, here`s the deal. She made an agreement. There were 28 counts to begin with, including sexual battery and statutory rape. She pled no contest, which is the equivalent of guilty, to four of the sexual batteries, all right?
It could have been a nine-year sentence. In fact, she got -- excuse me. It could have been an eight-year sentence. She got nine months. She was -- she had to register as a sex offender. She had to relinquish her teaching certificate.
And she was ordered: Do not contact this young man. There`s no way she could have not understood that, including the Internet, including telephone. But she did it anyway, apparently, and then was brazen enough to go further with videos, and in fact, sent him messages after a court hearing! So, apparently, for her, the law really doesn`t mean much.
GRACE: Take a listen to what the prosecution had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN POTTER, D.A. GENERAL PROSECUTOR: We got 15 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, based on the position as a teacher and -- that she had with this student at Centertown Elementary School. There`s 13 counts of statutory rape.
Most of the time, we try to prosecute them as harsh as possible, when it comes to sex crimes involving children. As far as this case, we intend to prosecute it to the fullest extent possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she`s doing well. She`s trying to keep it in perspective. She knows it`s going to be a long road.
She was a very popular teacher here in this county, and she enjoys a lot of support in this county. So I don`t want to have any knee-jerk reaction about a change of venue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: It is Trial 101, nolo contendere. In other words, I do not contest.
To veteran trial lawyer Doug Burns. You know, when I had a felony case, I would not let -- if the defendant wanted to plead guilty for a lesser sentence, I would not let them plead nolo. You know why? Because in the future, a nolo very often cannot be used as a similar transaction. Say she has sex with another student or this student again. If they take it to trial, they may not be able to use this plea as proof of a similar transaction because she never really pleads guilty. Explain what a nolo contendere is.
DOUG BURNS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Very good point. Nolo contendere is the equivalent of guilty, but they don`t allocute it. They don`t admit the offense. In federal court, they call it...
GRACE: Did you just say allocute?
BURNS: Yes, allocute...
GRACE: OK, you sound like...
BURNS: ... Which means you admit the defense.
GRACE: ... a lawyer. Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh!
BURNS: Well, last time I checked, I am a lawyer.
GRACE: I know, but you know, when you`re explaining a legal term, try not to do it by using legal terms.
BURNS: All right. I apologize. Nolo contendere, you don`t admit in your own words what you did, and basically, it`s sort of a legal fiction. Most prosecutors` offices do not like it and don`t do it. You`re exactly right. And it`s for that reason, because they may not be able to use it later. You`re right.
GRACE: Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA KEATON, MOTHER OF VICTIM: I think he is just tired of hearing it on a daily basis. He was looking forward to peace and quiet and getting back to normal. He was looking forward to playing sports. He says he`s not going to play now. He was looking forward to just being with his friends and being a kid again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she missed her whole goal in life because this is going to change her life forever.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don`t believe it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s what I think it is, disgusting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ain`t nothing that shocks me anymore. I`m 83 years old, and I`ve seen a lot of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Well, apparently, he hasn`t seen these cell phone videos that this Tennessee elementary school teacher sent a 13-year-old little boy. Now, a lot of networks have played them. I don`t want to play them. It just seems to be perpetuating something wrong.
But I`ve got to tell you -- here in the studio, psychotherapist Lauren Howard -- they look like they`re straight out of soft-core porn like "Playboy."
LAUREN HOWARD, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: You know, the thing is, Nancy, why is it that we can`t look at this woman as a pedophile? That`s what she is. And therefore, she has a compulsion for a behavior that is not -- that she really can -- is unable to resist the impulse toward.
If she were a man, we would have no problem sort of seeing her as an unwell person, a compulsive sex offender.
GRACE: When we come back, it`s another sweetheart plea for a female teacher accused of sex assault on a minor. This time, an upstate New York teacher and mother of four suspected of preying on multiple young students.
GRACE: An upstate New York English teacher becomes a convicted sex offender, pleading guilty to having sex with a minor at an all-boys Catholic school. Although Beth Geisel is also suspected of having sex with multiple students, Geisel walks free after just four months behind bars.
GRACE: Right now, I want to go straight out to Albany bureau chief of "The Daily News," Joe Mahoney. Joe, four months? Raping a student? How did that happen?
JOE MAHONEY, ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF, "DAILY NEWS": Well, this was statutory rape, in the view of the court. There was no force involved. She was allowed to plead guilty to this charge of a third-degree rape.
And now she`s out, as you point out. She`s going into a rehab clinic. Her lawyer has claimed all the while that what she really needed was drug and alcohol rehab, and that`s exactly where she`s going.
She will be on the New York State sex offenders list now for 10 years, but people won`t be able to find out where she lives here because in New York, if you`re considered, quote, "a low-level sex offender," people can`t find out where you are living on the Internet.
GRACE: But to Gerry Boyle, veteran defense attorney -- he also defended another teacher sex scandal, Melissa Bittner (ph) -- it really doesn`t matter when a minor consents. Minors can`t give consent, just like they can`t enter contracts, just like they can`t get cigarettes and alcohol. They don`t have the ability under our law to consent. So the fact that this little boy consented to sex with his teacher doesn`t mean a hill of beans.
GERALD BOYLE, SANDRA GEISEL`S ATTORNEY: Doesn`t mean a thing at all, Nancy. It means that our society recognizes that people and the public wants that, that they`re not supposed to be involved in things like that. And when they are, somebody`s going to have to pay the fiddler for it.
GRACE: Well, you`re euphemistically saying "things like that." It`s child rape, for Pete`s sake!
BOYLE: Yes, it`s rape within the concept of the legal word of rape. But whether or not it`s rape within the psychological word is something that somebody else has...
GRACE: Oh! Oh! Oh! Don`t start, Boyle! I just want to point out, before we go back to Gerry Boyle, he didn`t have a problem defending Jeff Dahmer! Remember the cannibal? So we`ll be right back with you, Mr. Boyle, so you know, you can talk about morally correct and legally correct, but the reality is, this is a boy in the eyes of the law.
Back to Joe Mahoney. What time did Geisel leave jail?
MAHONEY: She was out at dawn, very cold morning here in Albany, walked out of the Albany County jail into a waiting car and was apparently driven straight to this rehab place. But it was right at the crack of dawn, Nancy.
GRACE: Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAE D`AGOSTINO, ATTORNEY FOR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS ACADEMY: Obviously, we all know that Mrs. Geisel has a problem. The alcohol, I`m sure, explains what happened, but I don`t think it excuses it. As between Mrs. Geisel and a 16- and a 17-year-old boy, the teacher should have been in a position to say no.
Right now, this school is not involved in any legal action. But, of course, there is always the possibility of that. We hope that the young men and their families involved will not bring an action against CBA. We hope that they will understand that. This teacher obviously had a breakdown at some point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Why is it, when a man rapes a little girl, he goes to jail -- which I`m all for, by the way -- but when a woman rapes a boy, she had a "breakdown"?
I`m going to go to Pat Lalama. We just heard this representative say it was all about the alcohol. You know what? Maybe the first time, but what about the second, third and fourth young boys? What about that? Was she drunk for a year?
LALAMA: Well, the alcohol doesn`t explain anything. I mean, I think it would be fair to say that probably because of the fact that this woman has sexualized her life in a very, very unwise way, there was probably some childhood trauma going back, you know, who knows when. But who really cares? The point of the matter is, she used a position of authority and did what she did.
Now, Nancy, what really boggles my mind is that the judge in the case even indicated that perhaps she may have been somewhat of a victim herself, that perhaps used by this group of young boys, that she was this vulnerable woman in a very, very precarious situation.
Now, to his credit, he did say that really didn`t have anything to do with right and wrong. But he did bring that up. And I`m sitting here thinking, "Oh, Lord, there is a double standard in these kinds of cases."
GRACE: You know, I always thought Lady Justice wore a blindfold.
Back to Joe Mahoney, Albany bureau chief with "The Daily News," you know, it`s not as if this were a gang attack on this school teacher. For those of our viewers that are just learning about the Geisel case, everyone, a Catholic school teacher got just four months behind bars for sex -- translation, under the law, child rape -- with a boy student. Could you outline the other suspicions, as well?
MAHONEY: Well, there was an allegation that she had sex in a car with a 17-year-old, and that was not prosecuted at all, of course, because in New York, 17, a youth can consent. So that was not considered rape. And it was by virtue of the fact that this other boy, this child, was just 16, he could not legally consent. And that`s why she was prosecuted at all. But the judge did try to say that she was a victim herself of the boys, and that outraged some people. Some people agree with the judge here.
GRACE: Well, why was she the victim? She was the teacher, and they were the students. Wasn`t the 17-year-old one of her students, as well?
MAHONEY: Right, but the judge, in his view, thought that these boys took advantage of her alcoholism, and they peppered her with phone calls, and that is part of the evidence in the case, Nancy, that the...
GRACE: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! What? How can a phone call be abuse? I`m sorry, maybe I just disconnected. What did you say? They peppered her with phone calls?
MAHONEY: Yes. Called her up repeatedly...
GRACE: There`s a little thing called hang-up!
MAHONEY: Well, they tried to get a hold of her, by their own admission, for sex, and that was part of their statement.
GRACE: So they call a grown woman, a woman in a position of authority, and ask her for sex. She`s their teacher, they`re the student, and she goes along with it, and she`s the victim? Wait! Is that what you just said Joe Mahoney?
MAHONEY: Right, that`s what the judge said in court and...
GRACE: Whew! What is his name?
MAHONEY: ... of course -- his name is Steven Herrick (ph). But a lot of people agree with him here. They did not want to see her in the state prison. According to many people I`ve talked to...
GRACE: What people? What people was that? What people is that?
MAHONEY: Well, throughout the community of Albany. And, in fact, if you listen to talk radio, it was split almost 50/50.
GRACE: Talk radio?
MAHONEY: Some people agree with you...
GRACE: Can I ask you one question?
GRACE: And don`t -- don`t get me wrong, but would those talk radio hosts happen to be old, white guys?
MAHONEY: Exactly. And in fact, some of them said, "Don`t you wish you were that boy?" So you know, that kind of attitude was out there, too, that a lot of older men were saying that they wished that they were the boy, which...
GRACE: OK. You know what?
MAHONEY: ... outraged a lot of advocates...
GRACE: Pat, what is the judge instructing her to do while she`s on probation?
LALAMA: Well, the first and the most important thing is that she has to register as a sex offender. You want serious, that`s serious. That will affect her life forever. She has to do drug and alcohol treatment.
And, you know, I just want to throw in one thing here, the issue of the custody. My understanding is that the husband, at this point, has custody of the four children, for which I say, "Amen." I don`t know whether she`ll be able to get them back.
But Nancy, did you know that while all this was going on, her own teenage son was a classmate at that school with these other boys? I mean, I just don`t see why it ends right here. This is a person who needs to be strictly monitored. She has far deeper problems than just alcohol.
And what really scares me is that these people get teaching positions in high schools. How do they slip through the cracks? How do we -- oh, one other thing.
This is really important, as well. There was talk -- and this actually did happen, but no one`s exactly sure why. There was concern at the school that she was spending too much time behind closed doors in her office, where there were no windows. And she was with students all the time during these hours that no one could account for. They put a window if her office.
GRACE: They constructed a window in her office because they were worried?
LALAMA: Yes. Now, Nancy -- Nancy -- Nancy, hello! Red flag! I mean, I just...
GRACE: I smell a big, fat multi-million dollar lawsuit!
LALAMA: Thank you.
GRACE: Pat Lalama, explain that one more time.
LALAMA: OK. My understanding is that there was concern amongst the hierarchy at the school.
GRACE: Concern? OK.
LALAMA: Well, that`s the best we can do right now. But I`m sure it`s going to get better. That there was too much time spent behind closed doors in the office when students were in there, and so that a window was constructed.
Someone at the school said, "Well, that`s not true. It was for another reason." But the general consensus was that it was a way to sort of monitor what was going on. And take what you will from that, Nancy, but I know where I`m going with it.
GRACE: Where are you going?
LALAMA: Well, are you telling me -- look, how does this -- I can`t be that out of the loop and that far beyond reality that this -- I mean, I`ve got to believe that this kind of stuff cannot go unnoticed, that somebody, especially in a small Catholic school, has to know that behavior seems off- base, the behavior -- I mean, come on, remember school? Any little rumor of anything gets around. Somebody had to know something.
And I hope that somebody can dig it out of those administrators. I am convinced that school knew something was going on.
GRACE: Very quickly, to Joe Mahoney. Let me try him again, Albany bureau chief with "The Daily News." Could you clarify what her terms of probation are, after her whopping four months behind jail for child rape? And what are those conditions?
MAHONEY: Well, she can never teach again. She can never work at a school. So she`s done in terms of being in the classroom. She has to be on probation now for 10 years, and she has to report as a sex offender. But that information on the state`s online registry is not available to the public because she`s considered a level one sex offender. So she has to register, but people can`t find out where she`s living.
GRACE: The number of female teachers becoming the perps in student sex assaults snowballs. They call it teacher-student sex scandal; I call it felony child molestation.
JOHN ARETAKIS, LAWYER FOR BOY CAUGHT WITH TEACHER IN PARKING LOT: I guess, at this point, he might not feel as traumatized as we and his family believe he will be in the future.
But let me back up just a little bit on what Joe Mahoney said. This case actually started back in February 2005. Beth Geisel went on a trip with the Christian Brothers Academy school trip, with all the boys down to Florida. And on that trip, she provided alcohol to a lot of the boys, drank with them, and actually got so drunk, on one occasion, she was carried home by four juniors and thrown into her hotel.
DALE POTTER, WARREN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: In count 13 on November the 24th, the day before Thanksgiving, the defendant had intercourse with the victim at her home at Bremington Point (ph) in Centertown. She supplied the victim and another individual with alcohol. Later that night, an unusually high number of empty bottles of alcohol was observed in her trash can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, the defendant was a teacher at Greco Middle School in Hillsboro County. The victim was a 14-year-old student at Greco Middle School. While not her student, the victim did get to know the defendant towards the end of the school year, in the 2004 spring semester.
They began a friendship which escalated into a romantic relationship, a sexual relationship. On June 3rd of 2004, at the defendant`s residence, the defendant did perform oral sex on the victim, who was 14 years of age. On June 14, 2004, at a portable classroom at Greco Middle School, the defendant did engage in intercourse.
The victim`s parents became aware of the situation on June 17th. And on that particular day, in Marion County, the defendant, the victim had engaged in sexual intercourse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debra LaFave`s attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said he wants to keep her out of prison, and today, he was able to convince...
GRACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait!
BROWN: ... the prosecution...
GRACE: Wait! Wait!
GRACE: He didn`t want her to go to jail because she was too pretty for prison? Did I hear that, or am I crazy?
BROWN: No, you heard that. That was...
BROWN: ... the word from Fitzgibbons.
GRACE: Thank you for being with us tonight and this NANCY GRACE special on teacher-student sex scandals, AKA felony child molestation. NANCY GRACE signing off. See you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Good night, friend.