An assistant DA said, “None of the statements made in this case would be admissible without the victim,” and now that they are married he can’t be compelled to testify.
Leah Shipman, a 42-year-old former teacher in Brunswick County, North Carolina, has avoided being charged with statutory rape, sexual offense with a student, and taking indecent liberties with a student after marrying the alleged victim. As the Wilmington Star-News reports,
A former Brunswick County teacher charged with having sex with a student pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge after she married the victim, preventing the state from compelling him to testify against her.
Shipman, who was accused of sleeping with a 15-year-old student in 2010, divorced her husband of 19 years on January 19, 2011, and married Johnnie Ray Ison on January 25, 2011. Ison is now 17 years old, and according to the Columbus County register of deeds office his mother, Susan Wilson, signed the paperwork allowing him to marry Shipman.
North Carolina law does not allow the spouse of a defendant to be compelled to testify against them except in certain instances, and underage sex is not one of those. Because they are now married, the prosecution had no choice but to reduce the charges to misdemeanor resisting a public officer. These were the only charges that they could prove without the testimony of Ison. Assistant District Attorney Gina Essey said,
Shipman was offered the plea because, despite Ison’s admissions to investigators that he and Shipman engaged in sex when he was 15, those statements were inadmissible in court if he didn’t testify … The state pled [her] to what we could prove without the victim.
For her charge of resisting a public officer, Shipman was sentenced to a suspended 30-day jail sentence, she must serve 12 months’ probation, pay $345 in restitution, and she was ordered to give up her teaching license.
What do you think would be the outcome if this were a case of a 42-year-old man marrying a 17-year-old girl to avoid charges of statutory rape?
And how do you think people would react if it was a girl’s mother, instead of a boy, who gave permission for a 42-year-old to marry a 17-year-old?
Photo: Police Handout