tampabay.com

Lafave tells NBC she 'didn't feel like an adult'

By Staff and wire reports
Published September 13, 2006


Tampa's pretty teacher-turned-sex offender has not shrunk quietly into obscurity, despite a three-year sentence of house arrest.

Today, Debra Lafave tells NBC's Matt Lauer exactly how she came to have sex with her 14-year-old student and what she thought of the media frenzy that followed.

"I think he just became very flirtatious," the 25-year-old says during the interview airing on Today at 7 a.m. and Dateline NBC at 9 p.m. "At that period in my time or in my life, I didn't feel like an adult. I was crashing fast."

A judge last month granted Lafave permission to give the exclusive interview at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel and her home. Lafave's probation officer wouldn't allow her to leave her home for the taping without a judge's order.

Lafave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said the NBC interview would be an opportunity for his client to help raise awareness of bipolar disorder, the mental illness she claims contributed to her actions in 2004. A receptionist at Fitzgibbons' firm Tuesday said he was not commenting about the interview to be aired.

Lafave, who has expressed a desire to become a journalist one day, tells Lauer that she "crossed a line I never should have crossed," according to transcripts released by NBC.

Lafave says she believes her victim, with whom she has had little conversation, is going to have "a hard time trusting women one day."

"I'm sure he has to be living with the guilt of quote, unquote ratting me out," she says.

Lafave says she believes her physical appearance played a role in the kind of media attention her arrest received. "Sex sells," she says.

Still, she denies she is a sex offender and tells Lauer she never thought she was committing rape.

"I committed a sex offense, but I'm not a sex offender, even though I'm labeled as that," she said. "I made a really, really, really bad choice."

Lafave is serving three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to having sex with the boy in a classroom and her home in June 2004.

"I was a kindhearted person who loved children, who would never, you know, do anything to break the law," she says. "I was a good person. And then now everything has just changed. So it's really hard for me to accept that."