Jury finds teen guilty of misdemeanor charges in elite prep school institution rape case

August 28, 2015

Owen Labrie listens to testimony in Merrimack County Superior Court Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, 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.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former senior at a New Hampshire prep school has been acquitted of felony rape but convicted of misdemeanor sex charges regarding a 15-year-old freshman.

The jury of nine men and three women on Friday found Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, not guilty of raping the girl in an academic building at St. Paul’s School two days before he graduated last year.

But they found him guilty of three misdemeanor sex assault charges.

Labrie said he and the girl had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse when he was 18.

He wept after the verdict was read.

Prosecutors say the encounter was part of Senior Salute, a tradition at the school in which seniors try to have sex with underclassmen.

Labrie, now 19, testified the two had consensual sexual contact that stopped short of intercourse.

In their final arguments Thursday, lawyers on both sides criticized the school and offered different interpretations of email and Facebook messages the teens exchanged after the encounter in a campus building’s dark and noisy mechanical room on May 30, 2014 — two days before Labrie graduated.

He was bound for Harvard on a full scholarship and planned to take divinity school classes but testified that his plans are on hold.

His accuser testified she fought to keep Labrie from removing her underwear during the encounter. She said she told Labrie “no no no.”

She testified she was “frozen” and blamed herself for not doing more to try to kick and push him off.

Prosecutor Joseph Cherniske said the girl, now 16, didn’t report the rape for several days because she didn’t want to disrupt her sister’s graduation and because she “thought she could handle it all.”

“She thought she could handle going with an 18-year-old boy for a Senior Salute,” Cherniske said. “She thought she could say no by holding onto her clothing and saying no and make it stop.”

Labrie testified the two never had sex but acknowledged he bragged to friends that they had.

Labrie’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, told the jury the girl testified she had no recollection of telling her best friend earlier what sex acts she was prepared to perform on Labrie because to admit that “would destroy the whole image she’d been trying to create.”

“If you conclude she was not being truthful then I submit it taints her entire testimony,” Carney said. “In order to put forward this story, she was willing to tell a lie about a critical fact right in front of you.”


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