Hudson basketball coach charged with child sex crimes

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An assistant Hudson High School girls' basketball coach was placed on paid leave from the school district amid sex-related charges filed this week in St. Croix County Circuit Court.

Louis J. French, 42, was charged Tuesday, Aug. 29, with first-degree child sex assault, repeated sexual assault of a child, using a computer to aid in a sex crime and causing a child to view sexual activity.

Hudson School District Assistant Director of Community Relations Tracy Habisch-Ahlin said French had coached the JV-2 program — the freshman girls' team — since October 2016. He was placed on paid administrative leave in the wake of the investigation, Habisch-Ahlin said.

A criminal background check performed by the district on French turned up "nothing," she noted.

"Student safety is a priority," Habisch-Ahlin said. "We're taking it seriously. We're working with law enforcement as the legal process moves forward."

The case involves sexual abuse of a teenage babysitter, according to a criminal complaint.

Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen said Tuesday there is "no indication right now" any students or players were abused. However, he urged anyone who might have additional information about French to come forward to police or school officials.

"If you know something, give us a call," Jensen said. "Our hope is that this was an isolated incident."

St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham set the 42-year-old's cash bond at $50,000. Prosecutor Erica Ellenwood requested $100,000, arguing the potential prison exposure and fines facing French could be motivation for absconding. She noted that he recently had visited family in Tijuana, Mexico.

Public defender Brian Smestad countered that French had "never been in any trouble whatsoever" and that there were no indications he was a risk to offend while on bond.

Needham concluded his risk would be low, but noted that the maximum sentence upon conviction would effectively place French in prison for life — a comment that appeared to prompt French, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, to lower his head.

French — clad in an orange jail jumpsuit and shackled at the arms and ankles — was seen choking back sobs, sighing and laying his face on the defendant's table before the brief hearing concluded.

According to a criminal complaint:

Hudson police took a sexual assault report Saturday, Aug. 26, at a Hudson home.

Officers spoke with the victim's father, who said his daughter babysits for French and his wife. She was supposed to babysit that night for French. The father said he found her hurting herself and asked what was going on.

The girl responded that French had been sexually assaulting her since she was in the fifth grade. The last incident had occurred about two weeks ago, the father learned.

In a follow-up interview with a detective on Monday, the girl said the contact began about two years ago with inappropriate comments at his house. The behavior later escalated to repeated molestation, she reported.

French's behavior, the victim told the investigator, also included arriving home early from work, then intentionally leaving a bathroom door open so she could see him showering. She said he also sent her sexual recordings of himself over the social media app Snapchat.

The victim's parents turned over an explicit Snapchat message the girl received Saturday from French. A staged response was sent in order to see how he replied. He responded within a minute with a photo of his genitalia.

Police arrested French Monday during a traffic stop in Hudson. A St. Croix County sheriff's investigator attempted to interview him and asked if he knew why he'd been jailed. After he said he didn't know, the investigator showed him a copy of the Snapchat photo he'd sent Saturday.

"He then sighed and requested an attorney," the complaint states.

A preliminary hearing in the case was set for 2:30 p.m., Aug. 31.