DNA evidence attacked in rape trial of former St. Paul's School student

By Dale Vincent
New Hampshire UniLeader
August 25, 2015

Concord police Detectives Julie Curtin, left, and Chris DeAngelis testified Tuesday about interviewing former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie.

Concord police Detective Chris DeAngelis testifies about his interview with St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie in Merrimack County Superior Court on Tuesday in Concord, N.H. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of the "Senior Salute," a practice of sexual conquest at the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord.

Former St. Paul’s School student Owen Labrie listens to his lawyer, J.W. Carney, during his trial in Merrimack County Superior Court Tuesday. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of the “Senior Salute,” a practice of sexual conquest at the prestigious St. Paul’s School in Concord.

CONCORD — The prosecution Tuesday afternoon rested its case in the Merrimack County Superior Court trial of Owen Labrie, accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl at St. Paul’s School during graduation week 2014.

Defense attorney J. W. Carney said Labrie will take the stand today.

The final prosecution witnesses were two criminalists from the New Hampshire State Police Laboratory.

Kevin G. McMahon said testing found a “strong indication of semen” in a small sample taken from the alleged victim’s underwear. He turned the testing over to a DNA expert.

Criminalist Katie Swango performed tests on a larger fabric swatch from the underpants, which the defense contends were never removed during the alleged encounter between the freshman girl and Labrie, now 19, who was a graduating senior.

Swango testified that her testing showed, “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” that Labrie’s DNA was present in the first sample. Results from a second sample showed a complexity that kept her from making any DNA determination, she said.

Defense attorney Sam Zaganjori wanted to know if DNA can be transferred by saliva or sweat.

Swango said: “The liquid can, the cells, I’m not so sure.”

Zaganjori asked if testing for saliva was done and Swango, after checking McMahon’s notes, said no such testing was done.

Earlier in the day, Concord police detective Julie Curtin said she and another detective drove to Labrie’s Tunbridge, Vt., home, hoping to speak with him, but no one was there.

Meeting with mom, son

She left her card. Labrie’s mother called, asking why Curtin wanted to speak with her son.

Curtin said she couldn’t tell Labrie’s mother about the sexual assault complaint because Labrie, who was 18, was an adult.

She also said that when Labrie called her from Maine, where he was celebrating graduation, she told him about the complaint in a nearly hour-long conversation.

She said he agreed to return to Concord and meet with her, but insisted on meeting at a downtown coffee shop, where Curtin and Detective Chris DeAngelis were met by Labrie’s mother and Labrie.

Curtin again suggested they talk at the police station, but she said Labrie assured her his mother knew everything.

The detective asked if Labrie’s mother knew “he was trying to be number-one in sexual scoring at St. Paul’s School.”

Curtin said Labrie looked at his mother, looked away and then said he would talk at the Concord Police Station.

During cross-examination, Carney kept referring to Labrie as a child, but Curtin said he’d been 18 and an adult since early in his senior year at St. Paul’s School.

Carney also suggested Curtin and her partner were trying to separate Labrie from his mother, who had a pad and pen with her, because it would “interfere with (Curtin’s) investigation” to have the mother making a record of what was said.

Curtin said she thought Labrie might be more comfortable without his mother present, given the subject matter.

She also asked if he would mind if the interview was recorded and he said he didn’t want it recorded and said: “Let’s just talk.“

Curtin said Labrie was very polite, but detoured the conversation.

“He was arrogant,” Curtin said.

Carney said Curtin didn’t give Labrie the information guaranteed to someone in custody — the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and the right to have an attorney provided.

But Curtin said she told Labrie he wasn’t in custody and could leave at any time.

‘Moment of divine inspiration’

Curtin said Labrie told the detectives that when he and the girl went to the top of the Lindsay building on the St. Paul campus, he went to show her the view from the roof. He told police they went back inside because it was soggy and damp.

Inside, he said, he spread a blanket and they talked and kissed and then “things heated up.” He said he bit the girl’s breast over her bra, which he had tried to take off, but she stopped him.

Curtin said he described “a ridiculous amount of rolling around” and he kissed her between her thighs. He said he put on a condom partway through as a tease, but said he never penetrated her.

He also told Curtin and DeAngelis he had “a moment of divine inspiration” that prompted him to stop what they were doing, kiss her and leave.

He also told the detectives that he and the alleged victim were friendly and talked often and “he had helped her with other relationships.”

His friends testified Monday that the two were barely acquainted, just saying “hi” in passing.

Labrie now faces nine charges instead of 10, after Carney made a verbal motion after the jury was excused Tuesday. He asked the judge to dismiss one of two endangering the welfare of a child charges.

Judge Larry Smukler dismissed the endangering charge, which alleged Labrie had violated his duty as a student prefect, or leader, by inducing the girl to engage in sexual contact. The misdemeanor charge was dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be brought forward again.



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