Second brother sentenced in Racine attack

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 10, 2000

Monday, April 10, 2000

Before District Judge Donald E. Rysavy sentenced Ricky Laganiere Thursday, Judge Judy also pronounced sentence.

Laganiere, 18, of Grand Meadow, entered a plea of guilty to aiding his brother, Clinton Laganiere, 25, and also of Grand Meadow, in the assault of two teen-agers in a Racine park last September.

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The brothers’ targets of their anger were the wrong people and an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

Clinton Laganiere was sentenced to 27 months in prison in February in connection with the assault and is now serving time behind bars.

On Thursday, his younger brother, Ricky, was sentenced to a 365-day jail sentence for aiding and abetting assault in the third degree. Mower County Third Judicial District Judge Rysavy stayed 175 days of the sentence for two years of supervised probation and Laganiere will serve 90 days in the Mower County Jail. He also was granted Huber privileges to serve the time on weekends.

In addition, he must perform 10 days of Sentencing To Service time, make restitution to the victims and satisfy other orders of the judge, including no alcohol or mood-altering drugs, participating in victim-offender conferencing and making no threats or committing violent acts against the victims or others.

The Laganiere brothers were convicted of attacking Christopher Kuisle, Travis Parsons and Lucas Heitland near midnight Sept. 11 at the Racine City Park. The victims and four other teen-agers were hanging out at the park.

Using fists and feet, the attackers struck their victims and then left the scene, but not before verbally threatening eyewitnesses to the attack. Later, the Laganiere brothers admitted to investigators that it was a case of mistaken identity and they had attacked the wrong people, according to the criminal complaint.

Clinton Laganiere, the older brother, was identified as the perpetrator of the attack. His younger brother, Ricky, was identified as an accomplice.

The victims suffered cuts and abrasions, and in the case of Christopher Kuisle, teeth that were knocked out, as well as the fear that accompanied the attack.

Just as victim Kuisle’s parents testified at the sentencing of Clinton Laganiere, so did one of them and victim Christopher Kuisle testify at Ricky Laganiere’s sentencing hearing Thursday before Rysavy.

An emotionally-charged mother, Vicky Kuisle, asked the defendant, sitting silent beside his defense attorney, Steven Erickson of Albert Lea: "Do you have an explanation for this? Do you realize how you have affected all of us? Or, were you reacting without thinking?"

The mother and her husband, who live in Stewartville, conducted their own investigation of the crime as well as Mower County Sheriff’s Department deputies, but the Kuisles’ investigation went further.

Twice, they testified before the court they had talked to Grand Meadow residents and Grand Meadow schools officials and students about the brothers.

"Grand Meadow residents have no respect for you, but they show the undue respect because of their fear."

Then, television’s "Judge Judy" got involved. Mrs. Kuisle quoted Judy Sheindlin, a family court judge, who now stars in a syndicated television show. Unlike his brother, Clinton, who has a lengthy criminal record, Ricky Laganiere is a first-time offender, but that, said the mother, should not excuse his actions.

"Last night, I read an article by Judge Judy and what she said applies to you, Ricky," said the mother. "She says, ‘I think we should send a tough message to first-time offenders every chance we get, in the hopes that perhaps there will not be a second offense.’"

Victim Christopher Kuisle’s comments to the court also were directed at Ricky Laganiere. "I think it’s sad that you can’t hang out in a park without looking over your shoulder and thinking something is going to happen," he said.

The victim faces reconstructive dental surgery for the injuries he suffered in the attack.

Mower County Attorney Patrick A. Oman said Ricky Laganiere’s first-offense situation predicated his decision to accept a plea agreement with Erickson and Laganiere.

Oman also said the presentence investigation conducted by Gary Nyquist of Mower County Corrections Services supported accepting the plea to reduced charges.

The defendant’s attorney then told Rysavy his client may be unfairly "lumped" with his older brother.

Erickson said Nyquist’s presentence investigation indicated that his client was only involved with the attack on victim Parsons and that another individual with the Laganiere brothers that night was never charged for his role in the attack.

Erickson also objected to Mrs. Kuisle’s accusations that threats had been made by the Laganieres.

When the defendant was asked for comment by the judge, he had none and that didn’t go unnoticed by Rysavy.

"Frankly," the judge said as he began to pronounce sentence, "I consider that to be somewhat unfortunate. You have made no admission to guilt for these crimes. That to me misses the target of these proceedings entirely."

The judge said the defendant took no "ownership" for his role in the attacks on multiple victims and called the case "one of the most serious gross misdemeanor cases I’ve ever seen."

Rysavy said he "acquiesced" with the county attorney’s willingness to allow a plea to reduced charges, but the judge also said he didn’t see anything "less serious’ about the acts.

Rysavy, who did not hear the Clinton Laganiere case in court, concluded, "It is not the purpose of the court to be an avenging angel and seek retribution, but it is the purpose of the court to protect society and create some sense of values."

To ensure "… something hanging over you," Rysavy sentenced Laganiere to only 90 days of the 365 days’ jail sentence. Any violation of the strict terms of the supervised probation will guarantee the defendant will serve all of the days.

After the sentencing, Mike and Vicky Kuisle, their son Christopher, and Travis Parsons all said they were satisfied with the sentence, pending the outcome of the separate restitution hearings for each brother.