She had sex with two of her students! Despicable acts and felonies. Yet, Stephanie Ragusa smiled not in one mug shot, but in multiple ones. She also smiled when she was arrested.
Why? That is the question I kept asking. That is why I sought out to talk to the then 31 year old math teacher in Tampa.
I did an exclusive interview with Ragusa in jail. And yes, she smiled when she met me. Maybe, even while she was in prison, she was being polite? But, I had to ask her and you will see what she said in the interview I added at the bottom of this post.
Ragusa also profusely apologized for her actions during the interview. That certainly was not her attitude when she was first arrested back in 2008.
Defense attorney’s tried to argue mental illness, specifically bi-polar disease may have led to her illness.
Ragusa eventually relented and plead guilty to the charges. The judge, one of the toughest but most fair in Hillsborough county, Chet Tharpe, sentenced Ragusa to 10 years in prison, followed by 15 years probation, after she plead guilty to having sex with two underage students. I recall him saying, “You have disgraced yourself, family and the teaching profession.”
Yes, she did. She also broke her father’s heart. That is what I remember the most. This man, begging the judge for mercy.
The victims are the ones that deserve the sympathy but it was hard to see this father. Ragusa had lost her mother. Her father had done everything he could to save his daughter. She may have looked like a monster to the world, but to him, she was his little girl and forever would be.
She is now free.