Former Senior at New Hampshire Prep School Acquitted of Felony Rape

Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, faces nine charges, including three felony sex assault charges that carry sentences of 10 to 20 years in prison

A mixed verdict Friday brought a graduate of a New Hampshire prep school to tears in court during his trial for raping a freshman when he was a senior.

The future is uncertain for 19-year-old Owen Labrie, who was convicted of three counts of misdemeanor statutory rape and endangering the welfare of a child, which means the jury believed he had sex with the 15-year-old girl.

"In my opinion, the evidence most damning against Owen was statements he made to his friends," said Defense Attorney J.W. Carney.

The jury did not believe however that he forced the girl into anything and so acquitted him on the three aggravated sex assault charges.

"In essence, one teenager was found guilty of having consensual sex with another teenager," Carney said.

"On behalf of the victim herself, she said that she has left here with her head held high," said family spokesperson Laura Dunn. "It's a step in the right direction, even if it's not complete justice for her.”

Dunn said the family feels betrayed by St. Paul's for fostering a toxic culture that leaves students at risk of sexual violence.

"We trusted the school to protect her and it failed us," said Dunn. "We continue to feel anger and disappointment for the lack of character and integrity of the young men of St. Paul's School. They laughed and they joked with Owen Labrie about 'slaying' our daughter."

Both Labrie and the girl admitted the sexual encounter happened as part of a "Senior Salute," a tradition at the prestigious prep school in which older students try to hook up with younger students before they graduate.

Because Labrie used email to send out the "Senior Salute," he's also been convicted of prohibited use of a computer to lure a minor for sexual acts.
It's a Class B felony that will force him to register as a sex offender.

"A conviction like this will be like a brand or a tattoo on him that will be impossible to remove," Carney said.
Scott Murray, the Merrimack County Attorney noted the courage and bravery of the victim in this case and said his office is satisfied with the conviction.

"They are important because they ensure that the defendant will, in fact, be held accountable and punished for his actions," Murray said.

There's one thing both sides agree on - these two teenagers will never be the same.

A young girl who says her innocence was stolen is now searching for a sense of normalcy.

"They've been called liars, harassed by defense investigators, literally they've had every aspect of their lives changed as result of this," said the victim's attorney Steve Kelly.

And then there's the high school graduate once on a full scholarship to Harvard, now just hoping to avoid a full prison sentence.

"He will spend the rest of his life showing people this conviction shouldn't have occurred and that he continues to be a man of great character and integrity," Carney said.

Carney says he plans to file a motion regarding the Class B Felony, to try and prevent Labrie from having to register as a sex offender.

Labrie faces up to 11 years behind bars, but could also just get probation. That will be decided by a judge on October 29th, after the pre-sentencing investigation is complete.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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