Elementary school teacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, who had a baby by a 13-year-old sixth grade student, pleaded guilty today to rape of a child.
LeTourneau, a 35-year-old mother of five, was taken into custody after entering guilty pleas to two counts of second-degree rape of a child at the Regional Justice Center in this south Seattle suburb.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 29 before King County Superior Court Judge Linda Lau.
Under state sentencing guidelines, LeTourneau faces a standard sentence of 5-1/2 to 7-1/2 years in prison. Under a plea agreement, she is seeking an alternative penalty of a few months in jail followed by sex-offender treatment and probation. But the sentencing judge could reject that.
“We feel the defendant has accepted criminal responsibility for her conduct,” said spokesman Dan Donohoe in the King County prosecutor’s office.
“But we will continue to review our options” until the sentencing hearing.
Asked if LeTourneau could be a candidate for the special commitment center for Monroe, where sex predators considered a continuing threat are sent for treatment after their prison terms, he said: “If the court orders prison time, I guess so.”
LeTourneau, who lived in south suburban Normandy Park, has lost custody of her four children by her husband - two boys and two girls, whose ages range from 3 to 12. He is seeking a divorce.
She has said she hopes to rear the daughter fathered by her student at Shorewood Elementary School in Burien.
Under court order to avoid further contact with the boy, who turned 14 a month after their daughter was born in May, LeTourneau said she still held romantic feelings for him.
They met when she taught his second-grade class.
“There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time,” LeTourneau told The Seattle Times in an interview earlier this month.
By the time he was in her class again, in sixth grade, she said, “he was my best friend. We just walked together in the same rhythm.”
Women in such circumstances “are more likely to present their crimes as a love affair and much more likely to hold onto that belief, but it’s still exploitation,” said Florence Wolfe, a sexual assault expert and co-director of Northwest Treatment Associates.
The boy is in counseling, spending part of his time at his father’s home and with friends in another town.
“He’s doing fine as long as he’s away from the situation and people don’t harass him,” said his mother, adding that he still loves the teacher.
“The idea that an attractive adult woman would find him very interesting as a partner would be very flattering,” said Lucy Berliner, Harborview Medical Center’s director of research on sexual assault, “but what’s hard to understand is why a teacher or parent or any adult would act with such complete disregard considering the impact their actions might have on the child.
“Even if she does genuinely have feelings for him, there is no context for a relationship like this to be normalized.”
LeTourneau told The Times she knows the boy’s life has been changed irrevocably, “but I know he has a strong spirit and I’m hoping it will carry him through.”
The boy’s mother says she felt betrayed at first but has forgiven LeTourneau, loves the baby, wants her son to know his daughter and hopes to care for the little girl herself if LeTourneau is sent to prison.
“I don’t condone what happened and have never condoned what happened,” the mother said, “but it did happen, and it’s something I have to accept and live with.”
LeTourneau and the boy began having sex last summer. When she became pregnant, her husband eventually told relatives, who contacted Child Protective Services.
LeTourneau said she had expected him to file for divorce but was disheartened when he also moved out of state.
“I always thought that together, we could get through this,” she said.
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