The trial of a Maine high school teacher who is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student started Monday after she was indicted on more than a dozen sex-related counts.
Opening arguments began Monday in York County Superior Court in the trial of Jill Lamontagne, a former teacher at Kennebunk High School.
The 30-year-old, who surrendered to police in October 2017, pleaded not guilty after being indicted by a grand jury on six counts of gross sexual assault, two counts of unlawful sexual contact and six counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
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Accusations came to light after a student attempted suicide and told a hospital nurse about the alleged relationship. A judge ordered the teacher to not have contact with the student.
The student told adults about the alleged affair after he attempted suicide in June 2017.
Prosecutors plan to present text messages to support the student's account of the alleged affair.
In opening statements Monday, prosecutor Justina McGettigan told jurors the alleged victim was in danger of not graduating. She said Lamontagne took him under her wing to help him improve his academics.
"She requested his SnapChat," said McGettigan. "They are communicating in person, on the phone, texting, on SnapChat. The talk started to turn sexual. And eventually, the defendant performed oral sex on [him]."
Scott Gardner, defense attorney for Lamontagne, said the accusations do not pass the straight-face test.
"The state's theory of the case... is that this woman would risk the destruction of her career and the humiliation of her and her family because she had an uncontrollable desire to give a 17-year-old [oral sex] in her classroom at 7:30in the morning?" he said in his opening statement Monday.
A number of Lamontagne's former coworkers, along with her sister, staged a demonstration outside of the courthouse Monday morning. Several held signs with messages of support on them.
"This KHS Teacher Stands with Jill" read one sign. Another said, "Jill is the victim."
"She's falsely accused," said KHS teacher Melissa Luetje. "We saw this all happen from the beginning. It started with a rumor, and ended with these charges."
Luetje said the allegations have rocked the small school district.
"We've all had to re-evaluate how we do our jobs," she said. "Teaching is about relationships with students...and now we see these relationships make us vulnerable."
"If you ever got to spend more than second of your time with [Lamontagne], there's no doubt in your mind that this cannot be true," said Lamontagne's sister, Jessica Mitchell.
The trial is expected to last three days. The alleged victim plans to testify.
Gardner said the student has "lawyered up" so he can sue Lamontagne and the school district for damages.