Charlotte Hannah
January 21, 2013

Teacher Marries Former Student to Avoid Jail for Statutory Rape

High school teacher Leah Gayle Shipman was arrested in January 2009 for sleeping with one of her students, 15-year-old Johnny Ray Ison.

Charged with statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a student, the 42-year-old was facing 15 years in the slammer, the Daily Mail reports.

But due to a slippery legal maneuver, Shipman won’t be doing any time. Two years after her arrest, Shipman and Ison quietly married in a ceremony that came just six days after Shipman officially divorced her husband of 19 years.

Because Ison is only 17, his mother had to give her permission for him to wed – which she did. How allowing her son to marry his rapist could seem like a good idea to any mother, I have no idea.

In North Carolina, spouses can’t be compelled to testify against each other except under a few very specific circumstances. Because Ison’s testimony made up almost the entire case against his now-wife, police dropped the charges (with the exception of a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest, for which they didn’t require Ison’s testimony).

“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,” said Brunswick Country Assistant District Attorney Gina Essey.

Thankfully, even though she didn’t face legal repercussions for her actions, Shipman was fired from her position at the Brunswick County Academy and forced to hand over her teacher’s license.

What do you think about this case? If the allegations are true, do you think Ison should still have to testify about events that happened prior to the marriage, when he was a minor? Do you think this case might be treated differently, or at least be subject to more public outcry, if Shipman was male and Ison was female?

Let’s talk in the comments.