Prep school grad convicted of sex assault free during appeal

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Posted: May 16, 2016 5:40 PM
Prep school grad convicted of sex assault free during appeal

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A prep school graduate convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman girl as part of a game of sexual conquest called Senior Salute will again be free pending appeal.

Owen Labrie's bail was revoked in March after he admitted violating his curfew. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, which last week returned the matter to the trial court. On Monday, a Merrimack County Superior Court judge said he'd allow Labrie to be released with electronic monitoring via GPS.

Labrie's attorney, in arguing for his release, said that being locked up for two months has been a "life-changing" experience for him and that he will comply with any additional conditions.

"He's gone through a wave of emotions, from being sad about his situation to being scared, being nervous, being bored at times ... but it's all been a learning experience," attorney Jaye Rancourt said.

But Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle argued that little has changed since the judge's original order.

"The only thing that's changed is the defendant doesn't like it in jail," she said.

Ruffle said she was concerned about Labrie returning to live with his mother in Tunbridge, Vermont, because his mother likely knew he was violating curfew. And she said Labrie could pose a public safety risk given that he has not undergone a psychosexual evaluation.

Labrie's attorney said that requirement was part of his sentence he has not started serving.

Labrie, who's 20 years old, was 18 when he was arrested in 2014 days after graduating from St. Paul's School in Concord.

During his trial, he testified that he and the girl had consensual sexual contact, but he denied having sexual intercourse with her. He acknowledged he had boasted to the contrary to friends, in profane emails and social media posts that were shared with the jury.

The encounter between Labrie and the girl took place in a nearly deserted building whose roof had a panoramic view of the school's 2,000-acre campus. After a brief time on the roof, the girl testified, Labrie led her to a dark mechanical room, they consensually kissed and touched each other and he raped her.

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said it worries the judge's decision will discourage crime victims from coming forward.

"When there is a lack of respect for our court system, people should be held accountable," coalition community relations director Maureen McDonald said. "When offenders do not face consequences for their actions, victims are the ones that pay the price."

Labrie had been bound for Harvard University and had planned to take divinity classes before his arrest put everything on hold. He wept upon hearing the verdict last year.