When Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested for rape of a child, she was carrying her 13-year-old lover’s baby. News of the popular teacher’s arrest spread like wildfire, igniting debate about the appropriateness of the relationship. Both Letourneau and the boy, Vili Fualaau, insisted they were in love, with Letourneau going as far as calling them “soul mates.”
Despite the declarations of love and assertions by Fualaau that he voluntarily had sexual intercourse with Letourneau and was not raped, Washington state law provided for charges of child rape because of Fualaau’s age. In July 1997, three months after giving birth to her baby daughter Audrey, Letourneau took a plea deal to minimize the time she would spend in prison. Under the terms of the plea deal, she would serve 3 months in jail and 89 months on probation, take medication for bipolar disorder for a minimum of six months, and have no contact whatsoever with Fualaau. Judge Linda Lau cautioned Letourneau that any violation of the terms of her probation or plea deal would result in revocation of the deal and she would then have to spend her suspended sentence in prison.
In January 1998, Letourneau was released from jail. The following month, local police encountered a Volkswagen Fox with steamed-up windows. Upon investigation, they found that the vehicle contained a couple-Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. Officers also found cash, baby clothes, and Letourneau’s passport in the car, leading them to speculate the couple planned to flee the country with their baby daughter. Letourneau was arrested for violating her parole.
Judge Lau offered no sympathy or mercy for Letourneau. Stating that Letourneau had “foolishly squandered” the opportunity afforded her by her plea deal, Lau reinstated the suspended sentence. Letourneau would spend seven and a half years in prison, but escaped an additional charge of child rape for contact with Fualaau during the month she was out of jail. Prosecutors chose not to pursue this charge despite irrefutable evidence of another instance of sexual intercourse between the pair-Letourneau was pregnant with the couple’s second child.
Fualaau’s mother Soona took custody of baby Audrey and the couple’s second child, Georgia, who was born in October 1998. During the time she spent in prison, Letourneau got in trouble for contacting Fualaau via notes concealed in her daughters’ clothing and diapers when Soona Fualaau brought them for visits. Her husband Steve Letourneau filed for divorce in May 1999 and took sole custody of their four children.
Fualaau also filed a lawsuit against the Highline School District for failing to protect him from Letourneau, as well as the City of Des Moines for improper police investigation of an incident in which the couple was discovered alone together in a van in the middle of the night. This lawsuit, which sought money for emotional distress and to raise the couple’s daughters, was unsuccessful.
On August 4, 2004, Mary Kay Letourneau, then age 42, was released from prison. As part of her release terms, she registered as a Level 2 sex offender; that is, one that is likely to re-offend, the day after her release. That same day, Vili Fualaau, then 21, petitioned the court to remove the no-contact order placed on Letourneau, stating that as an adult, he did not need its protection and the pair needed contact to co-parent their daughters. Many wondered if this was a sign that the couple would get back together and that their declarations of love had been heartfelt all along.