A former middle school teacher who admitted having sex with her 8th grade student but asked for leniency because her lawyers claimed the 14-year-old boy was a "willing participant" will have to spend three years behind bars.
Stephanie Peterson, 27, will have to do two years of community control following her prison time, in addition to being forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
Before she was sentenced on Wednesday, the former teacher read an apology letter to the court.
“I wish I could make it clear how regretful I am for what has occurred,” she said, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “If I could say one thing to the victim, it would have to be that I’m sorry, two words used too often without much meaning but I can honestly say with everything in my heart that I mean it to its truest definition.”
Peterson pleaded guilty in October to charges of lewd and lascivious battery sex act with a child and electronic transmission of material harmful to minors for sexting and having sex with a 14-year-old middle school boy at New Smyrna Beach Middle School in Volusia County, Florida.
This week, Peterson’s lawyers filed a motion filed on her behalf, obtained by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, calling the boy a “willing participant” in the sexual assaults despite the fact that he was not old enough to legally consent. The motion asked for a lenient sentence also cited Peterson’s “troubled relationship” with her father and mental health issues. The motion stated that she received residential treatment at a behavioral hospital and that she is in a support group for people who have bipolar disorder.
Initially, the ex-teacher faced between five and 10 years.
Despite the fact that she was given less prison time than she could have, Peterson appeared shocked at the sentence as her family and friends sobbed in the courtroom, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.
Peterson began sexually assaulting the teen in Nov. 2017, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office stated back in February. The victim told his parents about the sexual assaults in February after an unrelated conversation prompted him to burst out crying and state “Anyone could molest you,” according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
She sexually assaulted him in her car, at her home and behind a bar near the victim’s house, according to the paper.
After the boy told his mother what happened, Peterson reportedly told the boy over Snapchat, “Please 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” before telling him “I hate you” and ordering him to “delete everything.”
[Photo: Volusia County Sheriff's Office]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.