Jurors begin deliberating in St. Paul's School rape case

CBS News
August 27, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. -- Jurors have begun deliberating whether a graduate of an elite New Hampshire prep school raped a freshman as part of a tradition of sexual conquest called Senior Salute.

The jury got the case Thursday afternoon after closing arguments and instructions from the judge. Nineteen-year-old Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, faces six sexual assault charges, three of them felonies.

Prosecutors say he raped a 15-year-old freshman in a dark, deserted building on May 30, 2014, two days before he graduated last year from St. Paul's School in Concord.

Labrie contends the two had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse. The girl testified that she "froze" as the events of that night went way beyond what she had envisioned.

Two alternates in the trial were chosen Thursday, leaving a jury of nine.

A prosecutor wrapped up his closing argument saying the defendant planned the assault and wasn't going to be denied a sexual conquest days before his graduation.

Prosecutor Joseph Cherniske told jurors Thursday that 19-year-old Owen Labrie's questions to the 15-year-old girl about whether she was on birth control corroborates her testimony that he raped her.

Cherniske says it defies common sense that Labrie put on a condom and then had a moment of "divine inspiration" that stopped him from escalating their sexual contact.

Cherniske said in closing arguments Thursday that the girl clung to her undergarments when then-18-year-old Owen Labrie tried to remove them May 30, 2014. Cherniske tells jurors that the girl's expectations before the two met just days before Labrie graduated from St. Paul's don't matter. Cherniske says Labrie had a plan May 30, 2014, and that "not even a girl holding onto her underwear was going to stop him."

Cherniske asked, "Does that mean she can't change her mind?" The prosecutor also stressed that Labrie told police that participants in a school tradition of sexual conquest called Senior Salute took "great pride in taking the virginity of younger students." He said Labrie planned the rape and brought a blanket and condom to a dark, noisy mechanical room in a building at St. Paul's.

Cherniske also noted that the 19-year-old Labrie testified he was lying when he told four of his closest friends that he'd pulled "every trick in the book" to have sex with the girl. The prosecutor says Labrie wasn't lying - he was bragging.

J.W. Carney gave his closing arguments Thursday in the trial of his client Labrie saying the girl lied to both the detectives and the jury when she said she didn't recall telling her friend about the sex acts she was prepared to perform on Labrie.

Labrie testified that the two had consensual sexual contact that stopped short of intercourse. Carney emphasized that the girl's underwear and bra never came off during their encounter.

Labrie is facing multiple sex assault charges. Prosecutors say he was participating in a ritual at St. Paul's known as Senior Salute in which seniors attempt to romance and have sex with underclassmen. Defense attorney J.W. Carney blamed the culture of Senior Salute in his closing argument Thursday for the "tragedy that befell both these kids."

Carney pointed to the breezy emails between the pair afterward as evidence her words were not those of a rape victim.


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