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Teacher Marries Ex-Student, Avoids Statutory Rape Prosecution

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Everyone loves a romance story and when a teacher marries a student, it has to be a good one. Oh, and it is.

The happy couple is 42-year-old Leah Gayle Shipman and her husband, Johnny Ray Ison. He just turned 19. But when the couple's relationship began, he was only 15 years old, and Shipman was a teacher at his school.

Shipman was arrested for statutory rape in 2009 after having sex with Ison; had she been convicted, she could have faced 15 years in prison. But thanks to her new teenage husband, the law can't touch her.

Police got wind of the affair between Shipman and Ison when he was still underage. When asked, Ison admitted to police that he was having a relationship with Shipman, reports The Wilmington Star News. That was all they needed to make an arrest.

But in 2011, Shipman's current husband divorced her. Six days later, she married Ison who was 17 at the time. His mother had to consent to the wedding because he was underage.

Now Shipman is protected by North Carolina's spousal privilege law, which states that a defendant's spouse cannot be compelled to testify against her. Similar laws exist in other states, and protect husbands and wives from having to act as witnesses against one another.

Of course, if Ison wanted to testify against Shipman, she couldn't stop him. Both parties in a marriage can claim a spousal privilege, and either one can waive it.

But for now it doesn't appear that Ison wants to testify against his bride, which means there's no real evidence that the prosecution can use.

The fact that Ison told police about the affair won't help in court because his statements are hearsay. That means the statements were made out of court, and the speaker was not under oath. As a general rule, courts don't allow hearsay statements.

There are some cases in which hearsay can be used as evidence. But Ison's statements to police don't fall into any exceptions if he won't testify at trial.

Shipman isn't getting away scot-free. She still pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of resisting a public officer. But instead of serious jail time, she got a suspended 30-day sentence and was ordered to pay $345 in restitution, reports The Inquisitr.

The happy couple also got "his" and "hers" probation terms from the court system. Shipman's charge carries 12 months of probation, while Ison recently pleaded guilty to unrelated charges in a theft case and received 24 months of probation.

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