Sentencing: Laqua gets 60 days for luring a minor by computer or electronic meansA former Jamestown Public Schools instructor received 60 days in jail with work release after pleading guilty to luring a minor by computer or electronic means Monday in Southeast District Court.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A former Jamestown Public Schools instructor received 60 days in jail with work release after pleading guilty to luring a minor by computer or electronic means Monday in Southeast District Court.
Richard Laqua, 54, changed the not guilty plea he entered in January. As part of the plea agreement the charge of sexual assault was dropped. Both charges are Class C felonies.
On or about Nov. 7 and 8, 2011, Laqua sent a 17-year-old girl sexually explicit text messages with some as invitations to enter into sexual acts.
“What I did was wrong,” Laqua told the court. “I want to apologize to everybody, my family and this court.”
Laqua was sentenced to one year in the Stutsman County Correctional Center with all but 60 days suspended. He was to report to the jail at 9 a.m. today.
He must also register as a sex offender for 15 years and serve five years supervised probation.
“Five years probation and 60 days jail time for a guy with no prior convictions we feel is a pretty good sentence,” Troy LeFevre, Stutsman County assistant state’s attorney, said after the hearing.
A Class C felony is punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Laqua declined comment following the proceedings Monday, but his attorney, Bruce Quick, said it was a just ruling.
“I think it was a fair disposition under the circumstances and if he successfully completes probation it’ll be a misdemeanor,” Quick said.
Judge Thomas Merrick said because a date or time was never set in the text messages Laqua sent that the mandatory yearlong sentence won’t be imposed.
Quick said his client is a local man who taught in public schools for 29 years, has been married for 23 years and has five children and eight grandchildren.
“Although he always denied Count 1 (sexual assault), he at no time denied Count 2,” Quick said.
Quick said Laqua has a low risk of offending again, and Laqua told the court he will never appear there again.
“Mr. Laqua, your life has taken a sharp left-turn here and I think you’re more aware of that than anyone here,” Merrick said after sentencing.
Laqua is self-employed in construction. He also operates a concession business. Both are allowed under the sentence to continue operation.
LeFevre was glad the plea change happened and a jury trial with the victim was avoided.
“In general we felt it was a fair resolution,” he said. “Anytime you can have a defendant plead guilty and avoid a trial, it’s a good thing.”
The victim said she disagreed with the sentence in a statement she provided to The Sun Monday evening. She said she was unhappy that, because the trial was called off, false stories circulating about her in the community will not be cleared up.
“I still have to suffer both emotionally and mentally,” she wrote.
The victim’s father also provided a statement to The Sun after the sentencing. In it, he said he wanted to thank the police officers and state’s attorneys who worked on the case.
He also said his faith in the school system had been shaken by the crime.
“As a single father of 4 girls, we have a lot to worry about, but now this happened,” the victim’s father wrote. “I have even more to worry about. This has put my entire family through a lot.”
It is The Sun’s policy not to identify victims of sexual crimes.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org