New Hampshire prep grad to appeal sex assault conviction

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Posted: Nov 25, 2015 4:27 PM
New Hampshire prep grad to appeal sex assault conviction

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Lawyers for the graduate of an elite New Hampshire prep school convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old classmate said Wednesday they will appeal to the state's highest court, arguing the trial judge should not have allowed a felony count of using a computer to lure the girl, among other things.

Owen Labrie's lawyers said in a notice of appeal that they will address nine questions, most of which deal with actions by the trial judge.

They will challenge whether Labrie should have been ordered to register as a sex offender for life. They have said the registration shouldn't apply because the 20-year-old Labrie was acquitted of rape, and that legislators meant the law to apply to adults preying on children, not to two teenagers who knew each other.

Prosecutor Catherine Ruffle said Wednesday afternoon that she had not seen the notice of appeal yet.

Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, was 18 at the time of the 2014 encounter with the girl at St. Paul's School in Concord. He also was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault. Prosecutors linked the assault to a competition known as the "Senior Salute" in which seniors seek to have sex with underclassmen.

Labrie's lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., had argued for probation and community service, saying that what the jury called sexual assault was really a "consensual encounter between two teenagers."

Labrie, now listed on Vermont's sex offender registry, was sentenced to a year in jail and can petition to be removed from the list 15 years after he finishes his sentence. He remains free pending his appeal.

Other questions brought up by the defense address whether the trial judge was wrong in his rulings on the admissibility of evidence, and in precluding them from cross-examining a key prosecution witness about evidence that could affect the witnesses' credibility. They also questioned whether the judge made a mistake in sentencing Labrie based upon consideration of acquitted conduct.

Labrie had been accepted to Harvard University and planned to take divinity courses. He testified that he and the girl had consensual sexual contact after he invited her to participate in Senior Salute, but he denied having sex with her. The girl acknowledged going willingly with Labrie to an academic building on the Concord campus two days before graduation last year but said she was unprepared when he became aggressive.