A teacher in Florida has pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old student and sending him lewd photographs, and now faces a minimum five-year prison sentence.
According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, Stephanie Peterson, 27, entered the guilty plea as part of a plea deal to one count of lewd or lascivious battery sex act with a child – which is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine.
She also entered a guilty plea on one count of transmission of harmful material to minors by electronic means, which is a third-degree felony that’s punishable by up to five years in prison.
While a sentencing date has not yet been set, when the former New Smyrna Beach Middle School teacher is sentenced by Circuit Judge
Raul Zambrano she faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 years in prison
Credit: Volusia County Sheriff’s Office
Peterson had apparently planned to enter no contest pleas, but Zambrano would not accept those in sex cases.
“The component of any sentence is treatment, and a component of treatment is admitting that you did what you did,” he told Peterson.
“If you plead no contest here, they go to treatment and they don’t want to admit anything.”
After speaking to one of her defence attorneys, William Hathaway, Peterson then told the judge that she would be pleading guilty.
When Zambrano asked her if she was under the care of a psychiatrist, psychologist or taking any psychotropic medication, she said: “Yes sir.”
Zambrano then asked Peterson: “Do you have a clear understanding of what’s happening here?”
She again replied: “Yes, sir.”
Zambrano asked her to tell him in her own words what she was doing in the courtroom, to which she said: “Uh, pleading guilty to those two counts.”
The judge also warned Peterson that when she is sentenced she could be declared a sex offender and required to register as such.
Volusia County sheriff’s deputies arrested Peterson on 28 February, with charges ranging between 1 November 2017 and 31 January 2018 – including Peterson picking up the eighth-grader from his home late at night to have sex with him in her house and her car, as well as in a barn behind his house.
When Peterson found out that the student’s mother was going to the police, she began to send panicked messages to him via Snapchat, records released this month by the State Attorneys Office show.
She wrote to the student: “So she’s planning on doing something with it.”
She then sent messages that read ‘I hate you’ and ‘so much’, before writing: “Pleas tell her it was the worst decision of my life and I know it was and idk where my brain was but that I somehow fell in love with you briefly and idk why and I’ll never be the same person because of it.”
Peterson then asked: “Should I call her?!??!”
Another message simply said: “Delete everything.”