Prep School Sex Assault Convict Seeks New Trial

"The trial counsel's failure to challenge the Computer Offense resulted in a miscarriage of justice," the motion says

A New Hampshire prep school graduate who was convicted of sexually assaulting a younger student is seeking a new trial, arguing his attorneys didn't do enough to defend him.

Lawyers for Owen Labrie, 20, of Tunbridge, Vermont, filed the motion in court Tuesday, arguing Labrie was denied the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel during his trial.

The motion, obtained by NBC News, alleges Labrie's trial attorneys didn't pay close enough attention to a charge of using a computer to lure a minor, a felony of which Labrie was convicted. As a result, Labrie was required to register as a sex offender in his home state.

"The trial counsel's failure to challenge the Computer Offense resulted in a miscarriage of justice," the motion says, calling the defense's strategy "objectively unreasonable."

Labrie's appellate attorney, Jaye Rancourt, said his trial attorney, J. W. Carney did not present evidence at trial to defend Labrie against the computer charge, and should have requested a jury instruction to explain the law.

"The purpose of the statute is to keep people from hiding behind a computer screen, thereby deceiving the person they're speaking with about who they are," said Rancourt. She said this statute does not apply to Labrie's communication with the victim.

In a statement, Labrie's trial attorney, J. W. Carney said, "I completely agree that the statute concerning improper use of a computer should not be applied to Owen Labrie given the evidence at trial and the jury's verdict. This is why I made a motion to set aside the verdict on this count several weeks before the sentencing hearing."

Labrie was convicted of sexual assaulting a 15-year-old classmate at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, when he was 18 years old. Prosecutors tied the assault to a competition in which seniors at the school sought to have sex with underclassmen.

He was aquitted of felony rape but convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and a felony count of using a computer to lure a minor. Labrie was sentenced to one year in jail, which he appealed, and five years of probation.

He was recently sent to Merrimack County Jail to begin a year-long sentence after he was found violating his curfew during his appeal process, while he was free on bail.

Labrie can petition to be removed from the list 15 years after he finishes his sentence.

NECN legal analyst Randy Chapman said these kinds of motions for a new trial are common, but rarely effective.

"I really think [Carney] did everything people expect their trial lawyer to do," said Chapman.

Rancourt said she's confident they can get a new trial.

"I understand it's a tough standard, but I believe we will be able to meet it," she said. "If we didn't think we could meet the standard, we wouldn't have filed the motion."

Victims' advocates say the appeals process, and the possibility of a new trial, is difficult to deal with.

"In this case, the victim, in her victim impact statement, so eloquently described both the emotional and physical wounds she endured, and the fear and anxiety she experienced in the first trial," said Lyn Schollett, Director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

"Most victims say a second trial would magnify that," said Schollett.

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