Jury mulls fate of defendant in New Hampshire prep school rape trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2015 7:03 AM

By Ted Siefer

CONCORD, N.H. (Reuters) - A New Hampshire jury is set to begin its first full day of deliberations on Friday in the trial of Owen Labrie, a former student at an elite prep school accused of raping a 15-year-old freshman girl on campus days before his graduation.

The trial, which began last week, has exposed uncomfortable aspects of the culture of St. Paul’s School, a nearly 160-year-old academy whose alumni include powerful U.S. business and political leaders such as Secretary of State John Kerry.

The alleged victim acknowledged agreeing to a "senior salute" in May 2014 - a long-standing tradition among students that involved seniors inviting underclassmen to get together before graduation, often for sexual purposes.

Prosecutors argued that Labrie, 19, went much further than the girl wanted to go and ignored her signals to stop.

Labrie testified that their encounter, in the machine room on the top floor of a school building, was entirely consensual, and that he stopped before having intercourse, telling the jury: "It wouldn't have been the good choice for me to make."

But the girl, who was on the stand for more than two days at the start of the trial, maintained that Labrie aggressively kept pushing her until she was "frozen" in fear and unable to resist.

"I was raped, I was violated in so many ways," the girl said through tears last week.

A key component of the trial has been the online communications between Labrie and the girl, as well as with his friends before and after the alleged assault.

Labrie's attorneys pointed to messages showing the girl continued to communicate affectionately with him immediately after their encounter.

The girl accepted Labrie's senior salute with the stipulation, in French, that it be their "little secret," according to one message.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, seized on Facebook messages Labrie wrote to his close friends boasting that he had sex with the girl, telling one that he succeeded in doing so by pulling "every trick in the book."

The jury of nine men and three women is weighing nine charges against Labrie, the most serious of which are three counts of sexual assault on a minor that each carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.

(Reporting by Ted Siefer; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech)