Prep school grad Owen Labrie, 20, who was thrust into the national spotlight last year during his trial on sex assault charges, will return to Tunbridge, Vermont, to live under GPS monitoring as he awaits appeal.
"I think he wants to move on with his life and stay out of jail," theorized Orange County, Vermont Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, whose department provides police services to Tunbridge, a town of about 1,250 people.
Labrie was acquitted last year of felony rape, but convicted on a charge of misdemeanor sex assault and on a felony charge of using a computer to lure an underage girl for sex. He was sentenced to a year behind bars and probation.
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Many saw the high-profile case as exposing what was called the "senior salute," described essentially as a game of sexual conquest of younger students by senior boys at the elite St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire.
In addition to appealing his conviction, Labrie is seeking a new trial, claiming his trial lawyers did not promptly challenge the applicability of the felony charge to his case.
During his trial, Labrie testified that he and the girl had consensual sexual contact, but he denied having sexual intercourse with her.
Earlier this year, Labrie admitted to violating his curfew and was sent to jail. But this week, a New Hampshire judge agreed to give him another chance to live in Tunbridge, if he wears a GPS bracelet which New Hampshire authorities will monitor.
He must stay at his mother's house from the hours of 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., according to court orders.
"I think this is an isolated case," Bohnyak said, describing the Labrie sex assault conviction, suggesting the community need not be concerned about safety. "He's not known as a random sex offender who's going to be perpetrating throughout our community."
When the judge okayed Labrie’s release, prosecutors raised concerns he may just violate his curfew again, but defense attorney Jaye Rancourt said no way; that Labrie absolutely will abide by the terms of his release and that spending time in jail has been "life-changing."
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."
Rancourt told necn by email Wednesday that details of her client's release are still being finalized, but that she expects that to happen soon.
In a small community such as Tunbridge, Bohnyak suggested Labrie will likely have added reason to abide by the rules placed on him.
"Vermont is small enough, same in New Hampshire, that if he violates, sooner or later, it'll come out," Bohnyak said.
The sheriff added that there are approximately 70-80 registered sex offenders living in Orange County. He said he and his deputies do lead compliance checks, usually two times a year, to make sure sex offenders are where they are registered.
According to a check of Vermont's online sex offender registry, Labrie is already registered, meaning he is in compliance with that requirement for his release. The registry describes him as "category 2 / unrated: presumed high risk."
However, under general policies of the registry, that presumption of high risk is applied whenever a person on the registry has not undergone a psychosexual risk assessment. Rancourt pointed out in court earlier this week that such an evaluation was a requirement of part of Labrie's sentence he has not yet started serving.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.