It was a love affair like no other. She was 34, he was 13. It was an affair that was scandalous at best and her actions cost her freedom for seven and a half years.

Mary Kay Letourneau (now Fualaau) was this generation’s Hester Prynne. She had a sexual encounter with the young 13-year old and had a child out of wedlock. It was the scandal that sent shock waves through the social world as well as the educational world.

At the time she had her first encounter with Vili Fualaau, who she would later marry and have another child, the relationship that took place was seen by some as forbidden. She had a career in teaching in a Seattle-area public school system before she met Vili. “The incident was a late night that it didn’t stop with a kiss,” Mary told ABC’s Barbara Walters. “And I thought that it would and it didn’t.” When asked if she felt guilty or disgusted with herself for having the affair, Mary said, “I loved him very much and I kind of thought, ‘why can’t it ever just be a kiss?'”

Today, Mary is 53 and Vili is 31. The couple is still together and are about to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. The two daughters they have together are now teenagers — older than Vili was when the affair started.

Mary and Vili sat down for an exclusive interview with Walters to talk about how they managed to stay together all these years, despite their very public and forbidden relationship.

“If it wasn’t strong enough in the beginning, it wouldn’t have carried through those years,” she told Walters in an interview that will be part of Walters’ upcoming new series “American Scandal,” which will air on Investigation Discovery. The series will revisit some of her most famous interviews.

During the interview, which aired on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night, Mary described how her and Vili’s relationship moved from
emotional to sexual when he was in middle school. When she was his teacher, she began to spend more and more time with Vili to help him develop what she thought was a gift for drawing. By the end of the school year, she said the two had bonded. By summer, they started having an affair.

By the end of summer 1996, Mary was pregnant with Vili’s child, their first daughter. Shortly after the new year in 1997, Mary’s husband discovered a love letter Mary had written. The authorities were alerted and Mary was arrested. The teacher-student sex scandal drew national attention and she would give birth to their first child, Audrey, on May 29, 1997. Three months later, she pled guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape and on November 14 of that year, she was sentenced to 89 months in prison.

She was paroled after serving six months on the condition that she stay away from Vili and attend counseling sessions for sex offenders. But within a month of being paroled, she was back in prison for ignoring the court order and her sentence was reinstated. While on parole, Mary became pregnant again with Vili’s child and gave birth to a second daughter, Georgia, behind bars on October 16, 1998. Mary’s husband then filed for divorce and moved their four children to Alaska.

“I’m surprised I’m still alive today,” Vili said. “I went through a really dark time.”

Vili grew up impoverished in a single-parent home without a father and had a tumultuous relationship with his mother. When his affair with Mary began, and after she became pregnant with his child, Vili said he felt that he had no support system to help him through it.

“It was a huge change in my life, for sure,” he said. “I don’t feel like I had the right support, the right help behind me … from my family, from anyone, in general. I mean, my friends couldn’t help me because they had no idea what it was like to be a parent, I mean, because we were all 14, 15.” Although he had counseling sessions, he struggled with that because his
counselors wanted him to take antidepressant medication to “even him out.”

Vili was forbidden from visiting Mary in prison but he said it would have helped him if he had been able to talk to her during that time. He told Walters, “I think the only person that I really … needed to talk to– I mean, if they gave me more options or choices to make instead of just saying, ‘Oh, you can’t talk to her anymore,’ and I was like, ‘I really do want to talk to her, though,’” Vili said.

She was eventually released from prison in August 2004 and after her release in 2004, since he was over 18, Fualaau asked the court that the no-contact order be revoked. The court agreed and they were married 10 months later in a ceremony at a winery in Washington State and Vili had just turned 21 at that time. Letourneau said she planned to have another child and return to the teaching profession and indicated that by law she was permitted to teach at private schools and community colleges.

The couple have stayed in the same Seattle community where Mary had lived with her first husband. When she and Vili got married, Mary said they didn’t move because they wanted to focus on “getting on track with life.” Through all of this, Mary said her four children from her previous marriage have remained part of their family.

“All of our holidays were always together,” she said. “And they’re very close with their sisters.”

But for Vili, who is only about a year and a half older than Mary’s oldest son, it has been more difficult. “It’s an awkward feeling, for sure, to be close in age with someone technically your stepson or stepdaughter,” he said.

While he works at a home and garden center, his passion is working his night job as a DJ with the DJ name “DJ Headline.” During an Inside Edition interview Fualaau said, “I’m not a victim. I’m not ashamed of being a father. I’m not ashamed of being in love with Mary Kay.”

Mary is working as a legal assistant but hopes she can return to teaching. Her teaching license was revoked during the scandal but she has now started tutoring and giving piano lessons. She is still registered as a sex offender but is trying to get her name removed from the registry.

As for the two girls, they know how their parents met and the circumstances and knew that their mother was different from others when their interaction was limited to prison visits. They are unfazed by the circumstances, controversial though they may be, as to how their family was formed.

“There was never a sit-down chat: ‘Now is the time we’re going to talk to our children about this,” Mary said. “They seemed to already know … because they grew up with it. … There’s just never been a, ‘Wow, we better explain.’”

Audrey graduates from high school this coming June and will attend community college in the fall. Georgia is a sophomore and a cheerleader. Both sing in their high school choir. Their parents are very protective and Vili said he has warned his daughters against having boyfriends.

“The reason for me telling them that was just from, out of experience,” he said. “A relationship could lead to something that you think you wanted back then. You don’t really want it, maybe, years later.”

If either of their girls did what they did, if they came home one day and said they were sleeping with their teacher, both Mary and Vili said they would be shocked and upset.

“I don’t support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older,” Vili said. “I don’t support it.”

The teacher and the student. A forbidden love that would have gotten them in trouble or killed in any other country lives on. They’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and some would just as soon have her stoned for adultery. Is Mary Kay a child molster? In the eyes of the state of Washington, yes. She has not re-offened since her last release and at best she and Vili should have every right to tell their story. After all, it is their story and most of us would like to hear what she has to say and we need to listen to it with open minds, whether we watched it on Friday night or on line later. This is not to condone what she did. That bell has been rung and it cannot be unrung. What was done can’t be undone and history doesn’t have a reset button. Hester Pryne never got a second chance. She was driven out of her community and shunned. Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau has become this generation’s Hester Pryne with a little bit of Mary Magdaline thrown in for good measure.

Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau and Vili Fualaau have suffered long enough. It’s time for their story to be told and at the very least, we should listen to what they have to say.

Advertisements