TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Disgraced schoolteacher Ethel Anderson stood in front of Judge Chet Tharpe during her sentencing five years ago and pleaded for mercy. But the former teacher of year was sentenced to a stiff 38-year prison sentence.
Anderson was convicted of committing a sex act with one of her students. He was 12 years old at the time and testified in front of a jury.
"She would rub on my leg, kiss on my ear and stuff like that. And sometimes we would make out for like two hours," explained the victim.
Now, Anderson is back, claiming her attorney at the time, Will Knight, made mistakes and gave her bad advice. She says when the state offered her a 15-year deal, she passed on it after discussing it with her attorney.
"I rejected it because I understood that I could have less time, that I could possibly not go to prison," explained Anderson.
Anderson remembers Knight telling her about teacher Debra LaFave, who had sex with a student and was sentenced to probation. And middle school teacher Stephanie Ragusa, who had sex with two students and got six years in prison.
Anderson says Knight never believed her case would go to trial. But Anderson says Knight’s biggest mistake is what he didn't tell her: She says she was never told that if she was found guilty, she was facing a minimum of 38 years in prison.
But Knight disputes that, he says he told her about all the possible outcomes. "In this case, it was if you don’t want that, we will go to trial and I will do my best,” he explained.
Anderson says she was never shown her score sheet, which calculates a defendant’s minimum sentence.
During Wednesday hour-long hearing, Rita Peters, who was the prosecutor at the time, also testified. “I would not prepare a score sheet until after the verdict.”
Yet Anderson says she never saw the score sheet before or after the trial.
Now it will be up to a new judge to decide who to believe and whether these possible mistakes earn Anderson a do-over.