August 19, 2019
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Teacher takes stand, says student was having emotional issues

Shawn St. Hilaire | Seacoast Online
Shawn St. Hilaire | Seacoast Online
The trial of former Kennebunk High School Teacher Jill Lamontagne, who is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student in 2017, is underway in York County Superior Court.

The former Kennebunk High School teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student in 2017 took the stand in her own defense Wednesday afternoon, testifying that the student was having emotional issues and she worked with him to help him graduate. But, she said, the two never had sexual contact.

Lamontagne, 30, is facing 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. Lamontagne is alleged to have engaged in sex acts a number of times from February to May 2017 with the then 17-year-old student. The trial began Monday in York County Superior Court.

A number of witnesses took the stand for the defense Wednesday to testify on Lamontagne’s whereabouts on some of the days she is alleged to have had sexual contact with the student, including students in her study hall, a friend and former KHS teacher, her daycare provider and her husband, Steve Lamontagne.

[Husband testifies for ex-teacher in Maine sex assault trial]

Steve Lamontagne testified that he was aware his wife was trying to help the student academically and he knew about phone calls between his wife and the student.

When asked if he was aware his wife was working with the alleged victim to help him scholastically, Steve Lamontagne said “Yes, very much so. It was a topic of conversation.”

He said he was aware of the phone contact between his wife and the student and said she would often discuss the phone calls with him.

On Tuesday, a cyber forensic and cyber security expert, Detective Fred Williams of the Saco Police Department, testified that there were more than 80 telephone calls and nearly 100 text messages over a six-month period between Lamontagne’s cellphone number and the student. Williams returned to the stand Wednesday testifying that the 86 call logs between Lamontagne’s cellphone and the student were duplicated, and that there were actually 43 calls between the two.

[Expert: Maine teacher and student exchanged nearly 200 calls and texts]

Jill Lamontagne told jurors that she never gave the student her cellphone but because she coached two sports and was the adviser to the KHS Interact Club and other school organizations, she used her cellphone number to communicate schedule changes and similar things, and it would be easy for someone to get her number.

Steve Lamontagne testified that he worked as a electrician just 5 miles away from the family’s home in West Kennebunk and would frequently return home at different times during the day “to pick up tools and things.” He told jurors that he did not tell his wife when he was going to do so.

“Do you recall a time when she left home to attend to (the student)?” Gardner asked Steve Lamontagne.

He testified that she did so on a Sunday, when her parents were also visiting their home.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Steve Lamontagne said. “I told her do what you have to do to help the kid.”

Steve Lamontagne also testified that he knew his wife gave the student a ride in her car that day.

Jill Lamontagne testified Wednesday that she had the alleged victim in her health class his sophomore year during the fall semester of 2014. After the fall of 2014 she testified that she saw him a few times when he would stop into her classroom to say hello, as other students often did.

She testified that she reconnected with the student in late January of 2017 when she saw him in the hallway and learned that due to a scheduling confusion he had accidentally skipped a midterm math exam in her father’s class. Her father is a math teacher at KHS.

“It became more evident that just missing his math exam wasn’t the only thing he was struggling with in school and so I just reminded him, you know where to find me if you ever need help. As I do with many kids,” she said.

The student took her up on the offer, and Lamontagne informed his guidance counselor, Laurie Hall.

Gardner asked Lamontagne if she ever had sexual contact with the student, or if she ever kissed him.

“No, never,” Lamontagne said.

Lamontagne testified that in March a fellow teacher came to her with the rumors about a relationship with the alleged victim, and she went immediately to Assistant Principal Jason Sullivan to report it. She was suspended from teaching for a week, and when the investigation was closed, returned to school to a warm welcome from both staff and students.

Gardner reviewed the pages of text messages with Lamontagne, who testified that the student had confided that he was feeling remorseful for how he had treated people while he was in high school. She testified that he came to her classroom “on more than one occasion in full on tears just really upset about multiple topics. He was upset about high school coming to an end, and he was really upset about how he had treated others.”

When asked about the song “Who I am with you” by Chris Young that she sent to the student with the text “listen to the words. You won’t like the song, but listen to the words,” Lamontagne said she sent that song because it said things about the ability to change and those were things she and the student had talked about.

Lamontagne testified that the texts she sent to the student on the morning of June 9 before the Senior Assembly were in response to her noticing that he was anxious and worried about the day and feeling a lot of emotion.

“I was constantly trying to remind him and cheer him on. It had been a long five-ish months trying to get this kid to graduation, and getting him to believe in himself. So I was excited, I was proud of him,” Lamontagne testified.

The alleged victim left the high school after taking a photo with Lamontagne in her classroom on June 9 and did not attend Senior Assembly. Lamontagne testified that when she didn’t see him, and saw his parents in the crowd, she continued to text him asking if he was all right.

“I felt like there was nothing I could do. I was watching his parents call him and they weren’t leaving. I was concerned,” she said.

She texted him and asked if he were OK and safe, and then sent a final text asking him to call her “after the school day and talk just for a second.” She did not hear from him.

Court documents show that the student was admitted to Maine Medical Center in Portland on June 9 for the ingestion of Tylenol, ibuprofen, cold medicine and Warfarin. The student testified that he had also consumed alcohol also and “tried to take my own life.”

Lamontagne said that on May 31, 2017, she felt that the student was at risk and was concerned for his safety. The call log showed several phone calls, which she said looked like separate phone calls because he was in a location where his phone kept dropping calls.

Gardner asked Lamontagne if the texts meant that she was “overwhelmed with love for him.”

“No not at all,” she said.

Lamontagne also testified that the alleged victim never went to her house, where he testified they engaged in sexual activity.

“He never went to my house to my knowledge. Not while I was there,” she said.

Testimony in the trial will resume on Thursday, when prosecutors are expected to cross examine Lamontagne. Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz said he hopes closing arguments will take place tomorrow and the case will be handed over to the jury.

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