WINFIELD, W.Va. — Joseph Lavigne is a free man today. Convicted of raping his then five year old daughter in the early 1990’s, Lavigne spent more than two decades in prison before he was granted parole this week.
But Lavigne has always maintained his innocence and still does to this day. A Putnam County judge in 2013 granted him a new trial and he was freed for almost a year and a half until the Supreme Court overturned the order and sent him back to the Huttonsville Correctional Center.
Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia did not prosecute Lavigne initially, but he has been dealing with the case during the entire 21 years he’s been in office. Most recently, Sorsaia was adamant when the judge overturned his original conviction that Lavigne be returned to prison. He still maintains it was the right thing to do.
“I know there’s been a lot of controversy about whether or not he’s an innocent man,” said Sorsaia. “But I can tell you in the last 21 years, knowing the evidence I know that was presented to the jury I’ve never lost any sleep over the fact he was convicted and is doing time. He got a fair trial.”
Upon his release from prison on parole this week, Lavigne continued to maintain his innocence. His daughter, now an adult, also supports her father and claims he was not the once who sexually assaulted her on that night.
Sorsaia offered no real comment on Lavigne’s release this week.
“In a criminal justice system when you’re convicted of a crime you get a sentence. The judge sentenced him and then according to the law after you do so much time, you are eligible for parole,” said Sorsaia. “The parole board makes decisions and I respect our parole board. I respect what they do.”
Lavigne now has the backing of the national Innocence Project and continues to fight to clear his name.
“I will be fully exonerated,” he told reporters as he was set free this week.