Although Mary Kay Letourneau never doubted her romantic feelings toward her 12-year-old student, she now says that if she had known the legal ramifications, she would have acted differently toward Villi Fualaau.
"Had I known that all of, that things were going to lay themselves out like they did legally, I sure would have run really fast away from him," she told "Good Morning America" anchor Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview.
"No matter what was between us. … There's nothing that we could have had that would be strong enough to say, 'Gee, yeah, that's OK for me to be separated from my children."
In 1996, Letourneau, then 34, made national headlines with the news that she was pregnant with the child of her then-12-year-old student, Fualaau.
Letourneau pleaded guilty to child rape and went to prison, giving birth to a daughter while there. She was paroled after six months, but within weeks was back in prison for ignoring a court order to stay away from Fualaau.
Pregnant again, Letourneau gave birth to their second daughter in prison.
She was released in August 2004, and the couple married eight months later.
"I never … I never imagined that [my children would] be separated from me," she said. "Had I known that, I would have, he wouldn't have been anywhere near me. … I wouldn't care what I was feeling. He knows that, too."
"I would never hope for a situation like ours. It just is what it is," she said. "Nobody should ever hope for a -- it's not an ideal path for a teenager at all."
Married With Children
Letourneau did "not for a moment" second-guess her relationship with Fualaau, despite the fact that he was her student.
"I'm not really one of those persons that says what's supposed to be the norm," she said. "I mean, I can see what's supposed to be the norm and I recognize it, but there's so many things in life that don't really don't fall into that norm."
Letourneau said that very few people expected the couple to end up together for the long haul, much less remain a happily married couple.
"They say, 'Wow, they're normal people,'" she said. "I don't think we ever cared what other people thought, as far as their opinion."
After the discovery that Letourneau and Fualaau were having an affair, his family filed a lawsuit against the school board, alleging that it didn't do enough to protect him from his teacher.
"I never wanted any part of it," Fualaau said. "There's a lot of guilt put onto me about it. … I never wanted to win the lawsuit. I never wanted to pursue it. … It wasn't my intentions. Ever. It was more of … my mother's idea."
Fualaau said that he spent many years in anguish after everything that happened.
"I feel like Mary gets through a lot of it a lot better than I do. I mean … sometimes I fall back really hard, just thinking about a lot that was said to me," he said. "Then I kind of wake back up, and she was in prison and I wasn't."
Letourneau said her children from her first marriage were happy for her and Fualaau.
"They're happy for us actually. They're happy for me," she said. "They definitely accept Villi."
Miscast by the Media
Letourneau believes the story was misrepresented by the media.
"[People] should be careful when they watch the media," she said. "There were attributes given to me that anyone that knew me would, you know -- it was almost a joke, like science fiction. … They wanted to make a story, and they didn't have a story, so they made it up."
Fualaau thinks the reason the story became so big is because of his wife's appearance.
"I think one reason is that she was really attractive," he said. "She has this all-American girl look."
Fualaau said he still felt vilified by people who disagreed with the couple's lifestyle. He cited an example of a cop who had pulled him over and, he believes, unjustly impounded his car.
"He said he saw me, he knew who I was," he said. "They still try to make our life real hard. … They don't like it [that we're together.] They don't like that the predictions are wrong."