Lawyer for prep school sex convict seeks probation
Oct. 28, 2015
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The lawyer for a young Vermont man convicted of sexually assaulting a younger student at an elite New Hampshire prep school says his client has already been punished and should receive probation instead of prison.
Twenty-year-old Owen Labrie of Tunbridge, Vermont, faces up to 11 years behind bars when he is sentenced Thursday. Because he was convicted of using a computer to lure a 15-year-old girl to a sexual encounter just days before he graduated from St. Paul's School, he also will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
Prosecutors have yet to file their sentencing recommendation and did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
Labrie also was convicted in August of three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault because the girl was younger than 16.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr., in court documents filed Wednesday, noted that Labrie's admission to Harvard University, where he intended to take divinity course, was withdrawn and St. Paul's has renounced him — stripping him of awards and refusing to include his name in an engraved list of the school's graduates. Those graduates include Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, former FBI Director Robert Mueller and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Labrie's arrest exposed a seamier side of the elite school — a practice called "Senior Salute" in which graduating seniors attempt to have sex with underclassmen. It was that practiced that catapulted Labrie's arrest into national headlines.
"Owen's most hurtful punishment is yet to come: Lifetime registration as a sex offender," wrote Carney, who tried unsuccessfully to have that conviction thrown out. He argued that the felony computer crime of which Labrie was convicted is designed for sexual predators, not high school relationships, and that if Labrie had used a cellphone, he would not be facing lifetime registration.
Labrie would be able to petition for removal from the sex-offender registry 15 years after he finishes serving his sentence.
"His crucible over the past 18 months has provided powerful deterrence to Owen's ever treating a woman with selfishness or disrespect, and it has given a clarion warning to other young men who have witnessed his fall from grace," Carney wrote, in arguing for probation.
Labrie testified the two did not have intercourse and said he regretted telling others that he "used every trick in the book" to have sex with the girl.
She testified that she said "no" and physically tried to prevent intercourse before saying she "felt frozen."
"I tried to block out the feeling as much as I could," she said. "I didn't want to believe this was happening to me."
After eight hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted Labrie of felony rape charges.