ALFRED, Maine — Former Kennebunk High School teacher Jill Lamontagne has been found not guilty on 14 counts alleging she sexually assaulted a then 17-year-old student.
In York County Superior Court this week, prosecutors argued the relationship between the student and Lamontagne, who was 28 at the time, changed from one of support and trust to “something inappropriate.”
“It was no longer academic, it was sexual,” said Nicholas Heimbach, York County assistant district attorney. “This is about a person in a position of authority taking advantage of a student.”
Defense attorney Scott Gardner disputed that claim saying the alleged sexual encounters were an emotionally troubled student’s “fantasies.”
“Jill Lamontagne took the stand because, for the first time in over a year, she had the chance to tell her side of the story,” Gardner said.
The 12-member jury was handed the case after three and a half days of testimony. They reached a verdict in approximately two hours.
The jury found Lamontagne, 30, not guilty on all charges — six Class C felony counts of gross sexual assault of an individual whom she had “instructional, supervisory or disciplinary authority over,” two Class D misdemeanor counts of unlawful sexual contact and six Class D misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
During the four-day trial, the 12-member jury heard from prosecutors who said Lamontagne used social media and text messages to communicate with the student she allegedly sexually assaulted “in the classroom, in her car and at her house.” Lamontagne’s defense argued she never assaulted the teen, but saw a student who struggling to graduate and stepped in to help him.
In closing arguments, Gardner reminded jurors that the alleged victim and both of his parents testified that they have retained a lawyer and filed paperwork to pursue a lawsuit seeking damages from the school district, and possibly the defendant, though the student’s father said it wasn’t about money.
“When someone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. There could be a big payday for (the student),” Gardner said.
He also questioned the validity of the student’s June 9 suicide attempt, saying he was walking and talking on the way to the hospital, according to his mother’s testimony.
“This wasn’t a suicide attempt,” Gardner said. “This kid was having a nervous breakdown. This was a psychiatric issue.”
Prosecutors argued the interactions between Lamontagne and the student escalated from academic to sexual.
“Even more shocking, they began talking about love — the 17-year-old student and the 28-year-old teacher,” Heimbach said.
He said the student initially denied the sexual encounters when a police investigation began “because he would get the teacher that he loved in trouble.”
Addressing the student’s conflicting testimony on dates of the alleged sexual encounters, and the inside of Lamontagne’s home, where he alleged they engaged in sexual acts, Heimbach said, “Did he get every detail right? No. Would he remember the color of the couch or the oral sex?”
Before closing arguments Thursday, Lamontagne returned to the stand for cross examination.
Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan pressed Lamontagne on the text and phone calls between her and the student, and times she gave the student a ride home without his parent’s permission. Lamontagne had previously testified that she never gave the student her cell phone number, but that because she was a coach and adviser at the school her number would be easy to obtain.
On Feb. 26, 2017, a Sunday, Lamontagne said she went to Kennebunkport Consolidated School to help the student and give him a ride home, after he had called her for help. She left a gathering at her home with her family to do so, she and her husband testified. She testified that the student “had not showered and he had vomit all over his shirt.”
The student testified that he and Lamontagne engaged in sexual contact in her car this same day.
Lamontagne testified that no sexual contact happened, and that the student’s mother was at the school and knew that he was getting in the car with her. Lamontagne testified that the student would not go with his mother. She said she drove around and was able to get him “calmed down, and he agreed to go home.”
When questioned by McGettigan, Lamontagne restated her testimony from Wednesday, saying the texts and phone calls were in response to the student’s emotional state and academic struggles.
McGettigan asked Lamontagne why she continued to work with the student after returning to KHS following an initial investigation in March 2017, after rumors emerged about a relationship between the student and Lamontagne. The school and Kennebunk police conducted an investigation with no action at the time.
“He had me convinced he wasn’t the one spreading the rumor, so he was a pretty good liar,” she said.
She also pressed the defendant on why she watched his parents trying to contact him when he was absent from the senior assembly June 9, the same day he testified he attempted suicide, and did not speak to them about her concern for his safety.
Lamontagne testified that she understood the student did not get along with his parents. She also said “(the student) had warned me that his mother was trying to convince him to say the rumors were true. So no, I didn’t go over to them.”
Gardner told jurors that “reasonable doubt is huge in this case.”
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.
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