EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Jason LaVigne is led into the courtroom Friday in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1. LaVigne, a former teacher from Little Chute, Wisconsin, was sentenced to five years in prison for third-degree sexual assault of a high school girl in the Town of Stephenson. 
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Jason LaVigne is led into the courtroom Friday in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1. LaVigne, a former teacher from Little Chute, Wisconsin, was sentenced to five years in prison for third-degree sexual assault of a high school girl in the Town of Stephenson. 

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MARINETTE — A former teacher from the Fox Valley was sentenced Friday in Marinette County Circuit Court to five years in prison for third-degree sexual assault of a high school girl.

Jason H. LaVigne, 47, Appleton, appeared in Branch 2 with his attorney Kevin Musolf. The sentence handed down by Circuit Judge Jim Morrison is followed by five years extended supervision and it will run consecutive to a 16-year sentence (five years prison, 11 years extended supervision) that LaVigne received last April for a similar charge in Outagamie County.

For the two crimes, LaVigne will serve a total of 10 years in prison followed by 16 years extended supervision.

The Marinette County charge stems from June 2, 2018, incident in the Town of Stephenson when LaVigne, who was a teacher in Little Chute, had sexual intercourse with a then-16-year-old girl who was a friend of his daughter.

LaVigne was convicted of taking his daughter and her friend for a ride on his pontoon boat, providing them alcohol and sexually assaulting the friend while his daughter slept. A Marinette County jury found him guilty in September.

In Outagamie County, LaVigne was convicted of repeated sexual assault of the same child nearly 20 years ago. He was accused of rubbing up against the female victim, a high school freshman at the time, inappropriately several times in his classroom. He was sentenced for that crime in June.

The Outagamie County incidents came to light when Marinette County officers were investigating his personnel file at Little Chute High School. The superintendent at the time did not report the girl’s claims to police because he said he didn’t find enough evidence that LaVigne acted inappropriately.

On Friday, the victim (who will be referred to by her initials A.Z. per court order) told the court how the incident still haunts her as she has trouble sleeping, experiences nightmares and has panic attacks, anxiety and depression. She said she also had to switch schools for her senior year of high school because of harassment about the incident.

“I put on a strong front in the aftermath, but behind it is just a scared girl,” A.Z. said.

She added that she has been called a liar and has been accused of being over dramatic. “They just don’t want to believe the dark truth of what Jason did that day,” she said.

Her mother also spoke and referred to LaVigne as a “disgusting pedophile who preyed on innocent girls.” She said her daughter and the entire family will have to deal with this incident forever.

“Unfortunately, we found out too late that he’s a danger to society,” she said.

LaVigne’s daughter and wife spoke and each proclaimed the defendant’s innocence. They talked about him being a loving father and husband.

His daughter said her life is empty without her dad and she has had to learn how to be strong and independent. “I did not realize until he was gone how much I need my dad in my day-to-day life,” she said.

Nicole LaVigne, his wife, said the only mistake her husband made was providing one drink each to two underage girls. She said A.Z. “attacked” her husband on the boat.

“A young girl made a fool of herself in front of her best friend and her dad,” she said.

Nicole LaVigne said her family has become stronger because of this matter and her love for her husband has grown. “Your story has brought us closer together,” she told the victim. “It’s not over. We’re not giving up. ... Truth will always win.”

She told the court how her husband has received over 200 cards and letters of support while in prison over the past six months. “He has taught 3,000 students in the past 23 years and changed the lives of many of them,” she said. “He’s a beloved teacher; he’s a dad that all my kids’ friends love.”

Marinette County Assistant District Attorney Cody Marschall said the state is asking for the maximum sentence and to have it run consecutive to the Outagamie County sentence. He said a concurrent sentence would not provide justice to this case and would be “no sentence at all.”   

Marschall said the defense has brought up the fact that the victim declined a pelvic exam during her sexual assault exam in the Fox Valley. “She had just gone through this horrific experience and the thought of having an invasive procedure, she didn’t want to do ... that is her right,” he said.

The prosecutor emphasized that there was enough DNA to show what truly happened and collaborate what A.Z. said. He said the defense, at the trial, engaged in character assassination of the victim.

“Doing everything possible to make (A.Z.) look like this wild, drunken party girl who couldn’t control her booze,” Marschall said. “That’s simply not the case.”

He spoke to a couple of other incidents of LaVigne and young girls. He said the suspect attempted to kiss a teenager after giving her a ride home and he rubbed the thigh of a teenager in a hot tub.

“When you consider that with what’s going on here, these aren’t accidents, they aren’t innocent explanations — they are a pattern,” Marschall said adding that LaVigne’s style is to gain the trust of underage girls, supply them with alcohol and take advantage of them. He referred to the defendant as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Musolf, the defense attorney, asked for probation for his client. 

LaVigne spoke for about 10 minutes and spent most the time bashing the victim, the investigation, the trials and the verdicts in both cases. He said his only mistake was providing alcohol to minors. 

“I’m very sorry to put myself and my family in this situation by making some very poor decisions regarding alcohol,” he said.

LaVigne did not apologize to the victim nor did he express any remorse.

Judge Morrison said the many letters of support he received for the defendant are overshadowed by the decisions made by two juries.

“Not once, but twice, 12 citizens (the jury) who had absolutely no dog in the fight ... made the decision that you committed heinous crimes,” he said. “I have the obligation in this case to accept the jury’s verdict. I have no problem accepting that verdict.”

Morrison told LaVigne he is not an innocent man. “He is a man who has been found guilty of having sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old child,” the judge said. 

He added that the letters of support depicting LaVigne to be “a great guy” are of concern because hundreds of people have been let down.

“That’s exactly the problem with sexual predators who take advantage of children ... because they are in relationships of trust.” Morrison said. “That’s why it is so evil and so pernicious.”

The judge also spoke directly to the victim.

“(A.Z.) you are not the cause of this,” Morrison said. “You did not do this. You shouldn’t have been using pot. You shouldn’t have been drinking. But you did not invite this man to rape you. This is not your fault.”

LaVigne will get credit for six days served.