TAMPA, FL -- When Stephanie Ragusa stood before a Tampa judge Monday, her infamous smile was gone. As she pled guilty, the former school teacher appeared to be on the verge of tears, mouthing 'I'm sorry' to her father in the courtroom.
"There's a great deal of anxiety and stress and pressure and a lot of very important decisions to make," said Robert Herce, Ragusa's attorney.
The former teacher turned her back to cameras and hid her face with her hair. She told a judge even though she was taking anti-anxiety medication, it hadn't affected her decision to give up a jury trial.
Her underage victim was in the courtroom, too. Prosecutors say the 16-year old was ready to testify, if Ragusa hadn't cut a deal.
"That's one of the great things that we take into account, is what the victim feels. They're the ones that are going into that courtroom. They're the ones that are gonna have to testify. This is what they went through," said Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters.
Ragusa pled guilty to three counts of having sex with a 14-year-old student and two more for sex with a 16-year-old. Prosecutors say the encounters happened at her apartment and in the back of her SUV while she was still a math teacher at Davidson Middle School. The counts could carry a maximum of 10-years in Florida State Prison.
"We will have a sentencing hearing in June and it will be lengthy. We'll be able to address all the issues and hopefully convince a judge that she's served enough time and perhaps probation is the best way to proceed," said Herce.
Criminal defense attorney Joe Epsicopo says he believes the deal is good for both sides. "I think 10-years is a reasonable sentence," he said.
Unlike Debra LaFave, another high-profile teacher-sex case where the victim and his family chose not to testify, Prosecutor Peters says in this case, the victim had planned on taking the stand if Ragusa rejected the plea deal.
"I think overall everybody's going to be satisfied. She'll serve 8 1/2 years. She's got two in so she'll be out in 6 1/2. She'll be on probation," said Episcopo. And that probation will last 10-years.
In addition to jail time, Ragusa will also be listed as a "sexual predator" by the state of Florida.
Copyright 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.