Alleged victim in U.S. prep school rape trial 'traumatized'

Reuters News
|
Posted: Aug 20, 2015 7:06 AM

By Ted Siefer

CONCORD, N.H. (Reuters) - A teenager who says she was raped by a graduating senior at their elite New Hampshire prep school last year testified on Thursday that inconsistencies in her account of the incident were the result of being traumatized.

"I was raped. I was violated in so many ways," the teen, who was 15 at the time of the alleged attack and is now 16, said during an unrelenting cross-examination by a defense lawyer, at times breaking down in tears.

She has testified that fellow student Owen Labrie, now 19, raped her after luring her to a remote building on the wooded campus of St. Paul's School, whose graduates include prominent U.S. business and political figures, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Labrie has pleaded not guilty to three felony sexual assault charges, which each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The trial has cast light on what Labrie has described as the school tradition of a "senior salute," in which younger students agree to have sex with graduating seniors. The school has said the alleged tradition did not reflect its values.

Defense attorney J.W. Carney, a well-known Boston lawyer whose clients have included mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, questioned the alleged victim repeatedly on inconsistencies between her testimony on Wednesday and what she had said in interviews with police shortly after the May 2014 incident.

"I'm sorry I was cloudy because I was traumatized," the teen said.

Carney contends the teen and Labrie had a consensual encounter that did not include sexual intercourse, following a friendly and sometimes flirtatious series of emails in which they discussed keeping the encounter secret.

The defense attorney pushed the woman to answer why she had told a detective she laughed at times during the encounter.

"Did you ever tell Owen Labrie if you're laughing during the encounter, it doesn't mean what to the rest of the world it means?" Carney asked. The teen explained it had been nervous laughter, ignoring Carney's request for a "yes" or "no" answer.

"A 'yes' or 'no' answer would not do that justice," she said.

The teen testified that her older sister, a classmate of Labrie who had been friends with him, punched Labrie in the face when she learned of the incident.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)