Bipolar teacher gets 3 years for having sex with her 14-year-old student and sending him nude photos of herself
Stephanie Peterson, 27, was sentenced to 36 months for sex acts and transmission of harmful materials to a minor student
A former teacher from Volusia County, Florida,who pleaded guilty to having sex with a middle school student, was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison.
Twenty seven-year-old Stephanie Peterson was sentenced by Volusia Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano after hearing from the victim's mother and grandmother. Zambrano ruled that Peterson must also serve probation and register as a sex offender, WKMG reports.
In October, the former New Smyrna Beach Middle School teacher pleaded guilty to a charge of lewd and lascivious battery after being arrested earlier this year. The charges came after the 14-year-old boy and his family reported the said allegations to the authorities.
Peterson allegedly posed as a mentor only to have sex with the boy and sent him nude photos aside from occasionally giving him drugs, deputies said. Speaking to detectives during an interrogation, the student said that the teacher sent him nude photos via Instagram and Snapchat. Peterson was later identified after her face was visible in the photos, detectives said.
Peterson's husband would be at work when she would pick up the minor from his home after 11 pm, according to an arrest report. She would later drop him back around 1 am or 2 am the following day.
According to psychologist Dr Lisa Potash, who testified at Wednesday's sentencing, Peterson is bipolar and at risk for suicide. She believes Peterson's "irrational and impulsive" behavior was spurred by a manic episode she had had and said her relationship with the boy was simply to seek attention. That said, Dr Potash concluded that Peterson is low risk as a potential re-offender.
Meanwhile, Judge Zambrano agreed that Peterson was mentally ill and admitted he wasn't expecting her to plead guilty and accept her wrongdoing. On the other hand, the former educator's mother Johnna Peterson also testified at the hearing and said her biological father was mentally abusive and never around to support her.
With tears in her eyes, she told the court that her daughter is a supportive and wonderful person who puts everyone else before herself. "That's my kid. That's the person I know," she said.
Addressing the judge, Peterson's mother requested a community-based sentence for her and asserted that her daughter can be a productive member of society. She then turned to apologize to the victim's family and said her daughter is very sad and remorseful, while her adoptive father said he's willing to pay restitution.
Nonetheless, the boy's grandmother maintained during her testimony that sexual predators need to be held accountable - a stand reinforced by the victim's mother, who said her son used to be vibrant, but now he's angry, lonely, and isolates himself most of the time.
During the emotional exchange, Peterson said she wanted to scream she's sorry every day, and that she would tell the boy "I'm sorry" if given the chance. According to her, she wanted to commit suicide the day she was arrested.
While the stated wanted a sentence of at least seven to 10 years, the defense argued that being registered as a sex offender would be punishment enough and urged the judge for community service or house arrest. But Zambrano told Peterson that she had to "pay for this mistake" and proceeded to sentence her to three years behind bars. "You're so smart and do the most insane of acts," he added.
Having said that, Peterson will serve two years under house arrest and five years of sex offender probation in addition to the three-year sentence.