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Plea deal settles teacher-student sex case

This news story was published on January 22, 2013.
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WILMINGTON, N.C., Jan. 21 (UPI) — Prosecutors in North Carolina say they made a plea deal with a teacher charged with having sex with a student after learning she had married him.

Former Brunswick County Academy teacher Leah Gayle Shipman, 42, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to misdemeanor resisting a public officer, the Wilmington Star-News reported Friday.

Shipman was arrested in January 2009 on charges of sexual offense with a student, statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a student. Shipman, who was married at the time, was suspended from her job and her contract wasn’t renewed.

The newspaper said court records indicate she divorced her husband of 19 years on Jan. 19, 2011, and six days later married Johnnie Ray Ison, then 17. The youth’s mother, Susan Wilson, signed the paperwork allowing him to marry.

While Ison had divulged he had sex with the teacher when he was 15, Brunswick County prosecutor Gina Essey said Shipman was offered the plea because his statements were inadmissible in court if he didn’t testify, and under state law a person cannot be made to testify against a spouse.

“The defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against them. Statements made to police officers are inadmissible hearsay except in certain circumstances,” Essey said. “None of the statements made in this case would be admissible without the victim. The state pled [her] to what we could prove without the victim.”

Shipman was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and 12 months of probation. She also was ordered to pay $345 in restitution and surrender her teaching license.

Ison, now 19, pleaded guilty the same day to unrelated breaking and entering and larceny charges, Department of Correction records indicate. He received two years probation.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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