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Sexual assault investigation yields alleged trove of child porn

by DERRICK PERKINS
Hagadone News Network | January 25, 2023 12:00 AM

A Bigfork man faces a child sex abuse charge in Flathead County District Court after an investigation into a sexual assault allegedly turned up images of child pornography on his phone.

Prosecutors have filed felony sexual abuse of children and misdemeanor sexual assault charges against Noah James Lafontaine, 24, after authorities began investigating him in the spring of 2022. He is being held in the county jail with bail set at $100,000.

Whitefish Police began looking into Lafontaine after a May 7 bachelorette party in that city, according to court documents. A woman told officers that she, a friend and Lafontaine returned to an area hotel following the party and she awoke to the 24-year-old rubbing her genitals over her clothes, court documents stated.

As she awoke, Lafontaine allegedly retreated to a bathroom. She then packed and left with her friend.

The woman told officers she also suspected Lafontaine of recording her during the assault and said he had repeatedly texted her with apologies, according to court documents.

Armed with that information, officers secured a search warrant for Lafontaine’s phone. In the meantime, they spoke with Lafontaine, who allegedly neither denied nor admitted to the assault. Instead, he allegedly said he was drunk and told investigators the assault “was plausible.”

He did admit to taking photos of two other people who were in the hotel room that night, but said he deleted the images, according to court documents. Officers then seized his phone and the device was turned over to an agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

While downloading the contents of the phone, the agent came across what looked like child pornography, court documents said. Investigators received a second search warrant and a review of the phone yielded 50 images suspected to contain child pornography, according to court documents.

Confronted, Lafontaine allegedly cited a porn addiction. While he denied looking for child pornography, he said the images popped up during his online searches, according to court documents.

Authorities cross-referenced the images with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Officials there identified two children who appeared in nine of the images. One child was between 5 and 9 years old when the photographs were taken, court documents said.

An investigation into the images featuring the other child netted a conviction, with the perpetrator serving a life sentence for molestation of a child under the age of 12, according to court documents.

Lafontaine is expected in court Feb. 2 for his arraignment before Judge Danni Coffman.

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or dperkins@dailyinterlake.com.