U.S. judge restores bail for ex-prep school student in sex case

Reuters News
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Posted: May 16, 2016 5:31 PM

By Ted Siefer

CONCORD, N.H. (Reuters) - A New Hampshire judge on Monday ordered the release from jail of a former prep school student convicted of luring an underage classmate into a sexual encounter, two months after his bail was revoked for curfew violations.

Owen Labrie, 20, was convicted last year of the felony crime of using a computer to arrange a sexual encounter with a minor and initially released on bail pending an appeal. He was ordered to prison in March after prosecutors said that he had violated the terms of his curfew during repeated evening visits to Boston.

Merrimack Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler on Monday ruled that Labrie could be released, the week after the state Supreme Court ruled that his continued detention should be reconsidered, in part because it could exceed the time it will take for his appeals to be completed.

Labrie's attorneys have requested a new trial, alleging errors on the part of his previous legal counsel.

Smukler ordered Labrie to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to track his whereabouts as a condition of his release.

"I am cognizant of the fact Mr. Labrie spent two months incarcerated, and that may have impressed on him the importance" of obeying the bail conditions, Smukler said.

Labrie's attorney, Jaye Rancourt, previously acknowledged that he had repeatedly violated his curfew, which required him to be at his mother's home in Tunbridge, Vermont from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. She insisted that these were oversights resulting from trips to the Boston area to meet with lawyers or for educational purposes.

Prosecutors had maintained that Labrie willfully flouted the conditions, in part to visit a girlfriend.

Labrie, who wore orange jail scrubs, did not speak during the hearing, nor did he show clear emotion after the ruling.

County prosecutors urged the judge not to release Labrie.

"The only thing that has changed about the defendant is that he doesn't like jail," said prosecutor Catherine Ruffle.

Labrie's trial cast a harsh light on the elite St. Paul's School and its student tradition of a "senior salute," in which students in their final year seek underclassmen for romantic or sexual encounters.

He was found guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault because the victim was 15 years old, below the age of consent. Labrie was 18 at the time.

(Editing by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown)