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Teacher marries student to avoid jail for underage sex

13:32 Mon Jan 21 2013
Fiona Willan

A US teacher facing underage sex charges has avoided going to jail after marrying the man she was accused of abusing as a teenager.

North Carolina woman Leah Gayle Shipman, 42, divorced her husband of 19 years and married John Ray Ison in 2011, when he was just 17 years old.

Shipman was facing 15 years in jail for alleged statutory rape after being arrested in 2009 for having sex with Mr Ison, who was a 15-year-old high school student at the time.

Mr Ison admitted to investigators that he and Shipman had sex when he was 15 years old, The Wilmington Star-News reports.

But a court learned last month the couple had since married, preventing authorities from forcing him to testify.

A defendant's spouse cannot be made to give evidence in criminal cases under North Carolina law. Mr Ison's mother signed legal documents giving permission for her son to marry.

Shipman pleaded guilty last month to the lesser charge of resisting an officer investigating alleged abuse.

She was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence.