Debra Lafave, the young teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student, has "profound emotional issues" and will be pleading insanity, her lawyer said today.
Lafave, 23, is facing two charges of lewd and lascivious behavior. She is accused of having sex with the boy both at the Greco Middle Schools in Temple Terrace, where she taught reading, and in a car driven by the student's cousin in Ocala.
The teen told investigators that he and Lafave got to know each other during a class trip in May, and their sexual relationship began June 3.
The case has garnered international attention, but since turning herself in to police in June, Lafave has kept a low profile. She was ordered to appear in Hillsborough County court today for a pretrial hearing, but did not say anything during the proceedings.
Her attorney, John Fitzgibbons, told the judge he planned to use an insanity defense.
"To give the court a sense of the case, I anticipate that in the near future, I will be filing a notice of insanity defense. There is some work being done by a doctor ... we have accumulated medical records," he said.
It was not clear, either from Fitzgibbons' comments or court documents, what the reasoning behind the move was.
"Debbie has some profound emotional issues that are not her fault. I think once anyone reads what the doctors have to say, they will understand a lot more about what happened here," Fitzgibbons said outside court, as Lafave stood silently next to him.
Lawyer May Cite Family Tragedy
One factor the defense might use to invoke an insanity defense is the recent trauma Lafave's family has been through. Her pregnant sister was killed in a drunken driving accident three years ago, and Lafave was in court for the driver's trial alongside the rest of her family, who also turned out today for the hearing.
Her soon-to-be former husband, Owen Lafave, was not in the court today, however. He filed for divorce in August and has told ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV that the case has been like "living a nightmare" for him.
Lafave's trial was originally scheduled for Dec. 6, but Fitzgibbons requested a delay. Prosecutors said the new defense tactic could push the trial back "a couple months," possibly into next summer.
Lafave, who is free on bond, has been suspended without pay from the school. If convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the five counts she faces.
Lafave also faces similar charges in Marion County in connection with the alleged incident in Ocala.
ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa contributed to this report.