Putnam man convicted of sexual assault more than 20 years ago to be released from prison

A "Home Plan" has been approved for Joseph Lavigne clearing the way for his release from prison as early as Wednesday. (WCHS/WVAH)

Joseph Lavigne, who has maintained his innocence since he was convicted more than 20 years ago of sexually assaulting his 5-year-old daughter, is set to be released from prison as early as Wednesday.

According to information from the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, a panel of the state parole board has voted to accept the third and latest "Home Plan" for Lavgine. The acceptance clears the way for his release from prison.

The Office of Parole Services, which will supervise Lavigne, had earlier recommended that this plan be accepted, according to spokesperson Lawrence Messina. Messina says Lavigne could be released as early as Wednesday from Huttonsville Correctional Center.

In September, all who addressed the panel supported Lavigne's release: his lawyer, his daughter, the relative who was granted custody of his children, and two representatives of the West Virginia University College of Law Innocence Project clinic, Messina previously said.

"He will have to abide by the rules and regulations of supervision by Parole Services. He will also have additional conditions to meet as a convicted sex offender. Among those conditions: no contact with anyone under the age of 18 and he must register as sex offender," Messina said in an e-mail late Tuesday.

Lavigne was originally sentenced to up to 50 years in prison after a jury in Harrison County found him guilty. He was accused of sexually assaulting his then-5-year-old daughter in February 1996. The child was sexually assaulted in a church parking lot near the family's Putnam County home earlier that year.

His daughter has since publicly stated that she doesn't believe her father was her rapist.

He was released in 2011 after a Putnam County judge overturned his case. A year and a half later, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision, reinstating the sentence and sending Lavigne back to prison.

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