A South Carolina teacher who had sex with her 15-year-old student has married him to avoid going to prison for rape charges.
The teacher, Leah Gayle Shipman, 42, married now 17-year-old Johnnie Ray Ison two years after she was arrested for having sex with him.
ABC Local reports that, before the marriage, Shipman was facing 15 years in prison for statutory rape charges in connection with her relationship to Ison. But, Shipman divorced her husband of 19 years in 2011.
She married her 17-year-old student just six days after the divorce was finalized. Ison’s mother signed the documents allowing him to marry while still a minor.
Shipman was teaching at Brunswick County Academy when she was arrested in January 2009. She was charged with sexual offense of a student, statutory rape, and taking indecent liberties with a student.
Since then, the teacher who married her student to avoid jail for rape charges has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. The Wilmington Star News notes that Shipman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor resisting an officer on December 20. Brunswick County Assistant District Attorney Gina Essey stated of the case:
“None of the statements made in this case would be admissible without the victim. The state pled [her] to what we could prove without the victim.”
Shipman’s misdemeanor charge stems from text messages and phone calls she made to Ison during the police interrogation when the case was under investigation. The former teacher was sentenced to a suspended 30-day jail sentence, 12 months of probation, and $345 in restitution. She was also ordered to surrender her teaching license.
Ison also pleaded guilty on the same day to an unrelated charge of breaking and entering, as well as two counts of larceny. He received 24 months of probation.