WILMINGTON, N.C. — A North Carolina teacher accused of having sex with a 15-year-old student has avoided going to prison by marrying the boy.
The Wilmington Star-News reported that 42-year-old Leah Gayle Shipman married Johnnie Ray Ison, now 19, two years after being arrested for inappropriate relations with him at a Wilmington high school.
A defendant’s spouse cannot be made to testify in criminal cases under North Carolina law.
“None of the statements made in this case would be admissible without the victim,” said Brunswick County Assistant District Attorney Gina Essey. “The defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against them.”
Shipman was facing 15 years for statutory rape at the time of the wedding.
The marriage reportedly took place on Jan. 25, 2011, six days after Shipman divorced her husband of 19 years.
The wedding became public knowledge after Shipman pleaded guilty to resisting an officer investigating alleged abuse last month.
Ison’s mother reportedly gave permission for son, who was still a minor at the time of the marriage, to marry.
Shipman was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and was fired by the school.