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Lavigne returned to prison

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- After watching her son get sent back to prison on Tuesday, a weeping Sondra Lavigne left Putnam Circuit Judge Phillip Stowers' courtroom and collapsed on a wooden bench.

"It's harder this time knowing I won't get to see him again," she said, noting her health is deteriorating at age 75.

Joseph Lavigne Jr., who was freed last year after serving 15 years in prison for the brutal rape of his 5-year-old daughter, was sent back to prison to finish his 22- to 60-year sentence. His parole date is in 2023, he said.

Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding found there had been insufficient evidence to convict him in his 1996 trial and he was freed on bond pending a new trial. However, Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia appealed Spaulding's decision, arguing there was plenty of evidence to convict Lavigne.

Last week, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed Spaulding's decision and ordered Lavigne back to prison immediately.

On Monday, Greg Ayers, Lavigne's attorney, asked the Supreme Court to let his client remain out of jail on bond while his case was appealed further. The high court denied that request Tuesday, Ayers said.

Stowers amended Lavigne's sentence on Tuesday to reflect the 15 years he had already served and to tack on the year and a half he was out of jail on bond.

Ayers said he would ask the Supreme Court to reconsider their sentence. If that fails, he vowed to appeal the case further.

"Joe has continued to maintain his innocence, and I believe in Joe's innocence," Ayers told the judge.

Katie Haught, now 22, is adamant that her father wasn't her attacker. She sat behind her father at the hearing on Tuesday.

Lavigne's sister, Lori Haught, said this was the first hearing Katie had been allowed to attend.

Lavigne, dressed in a suit and tie, was led out of the courtroom after Stowers read his sentence. He carried manila folders containing legal documents.

"The fight is not over with yet," he said before entering Stowers' courtroom.

The family gathered for nearly an hour outside the courtroom in the lobby where a Christmas tree was set up before the hearing began.

Lavigne knelt down on one knee and talked to Katie Haught's daughter, who was born about a month after he was released last year, as the family pinned white ribbons on their shirts.

"They're for survivors of sexual abuse, and mean strength, courage and hope," said Lisa Clark, Lavigne's niece.

"They stand for Joe's innocence," Lori Haught said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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