Jury to Get Prep School Rape Case, Weigh Credibility

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Defendant Testifies in Prep-School Assault Case.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Jurors in the trial of a former student charged with raping a freshman girl days before he graduated from an elite New Hampshire prep school will soon have to weigh whether the defendant is telling the truth when he says no intercourse occurred during their heated encounter. Owen Labrie, 19, is accused of raping the freshman girl as part of Senior Salute, a school tradition in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving campus.

— The student accused of rape in a case that has cast a harsh light on sex culture at an exclusive New England boarding school took the stand on Wednesday, denying that he had sex with the girl and presenting himself as a model of virtue: a high-achieving soccer captain who won an award for his character before graduating last year.—A 19-year-old defendant on Wednesday said he didn’t have sex with a fellow prep-school student in a high-profile case that demonstrates how allegations of campus sexual assault are widening beyond the nation’s colleges and universities. Testifying for the first time in court on Wednesday, the former student of St Paul’s School in New Hampshire said he had sent the girl an email inviting her to Senior Salute because he liked her.

Prosecutors have argued that the so-called “Senior Salute,” in which male and female upperclassmen attempt to hook up with younger students before graduating, helped create conditions for the girl’s alleged rape on campus. Labrie walked step-by-step through his account of what happened, saying that although he put on a condom at one point, he had second thoughts and stopped short of having intercourse. Labrie, who was charged on nine counts, has maintained that a “divine intervention” stopped him from going all the way during his Senior Salute with the accuser. On cross-examination, he said he never told Concord detectives about ejaculating during the encounter because it was “embarrassing.” He denied it was because he didn’t know at the time that sperm was found on the girl’s underwear.

Labrie presented closed the testimony phase of a trial that over the past week and a half has offered a rare look into the culture and language of sex, and the pressure to conform, among a group of students at one of the country’s most elite boarding schools. Labrie of Tunbridge, Vt., has pleaded not guilty to three felony sexual assault charges and other charges, including endangering the welfare of a child.

They said Labrie gave no indication that the sex wasn’t consensual, and all agreed that students frequently exaggerate their sexual escapades when discussing them with peers. The girl testified last week that she initially thought Labrie’s Senior Salute intentions were ‘really wrong,’ but she relented when a friend convinced her Labrie was sincere in paying attention to her. Reporting on Monday’s proceedings, The Boston Globe cited witness evidence from Andrew Thomson, Labrie’s former roommate at the elite prep school; Tucker Marchese, Malcolm Solovaara, and Henry Kremer, three other former students who were friends with Labrie; and a current St. Paul’s School, — one of eight members of a prep school Ivy League of sorts that boasts an international roster of business leaders, senators, congressmen, Pulitzer Prize winners and Nobel laureates as alumni. “The culture of St. Thomson testified that he spoke to Labrie on the night of the alleged assault, and that he seemed “a little taken aback, but overall happy” after the encounter.

In one exchange, the girl says Labrie’s plan to meet ‘sounds perfect.’ Labrie said when they were together that night last year, the girl, now 16, never indicated she was in pain or uncomfortable. Prosecutors showed Facebook messages in May 2014 between Labrie and another friend, Tucker Marchese, who pressed for details about Labrie’s Senior Salute: “How’d it go from no to bone?” Labrie replied: “Just pulled every trick in the book.” But Solovaara had previously told investigators the opposite, and the judge reportedly told jurors that they could use this evidence to assess his credibility. The court has so far heard testimony from 16 witnesses, including the accuser, her best friend, her mother, two nurses, a doctor, and the dean of students. According to Ruffle, “She tried to say no, tried to use her physical conduct to let him know this was not OK.” “At one point I was in so much pain that I jerked backwards,” the girl said last Wednesday, telling the court that she said “no,” but did not kick or scream because she was afraid of offending the older boy.

Labrie’s lawyer asking witnesses to define not just the senior salute, but also the “slaying” of girls and more graphic descriptions that could be interpreted as references to sex or to far less. She acknowledged on cross-examination that she helped Labrie remove her shirt and pants and said she didn’t protest because she didn’t want to be offensive. Labrie testified on Wednesday that the freshman had helped him spread a blanket on the floor of a darkened room inside a remote campus building while kissing him, smiling and giggling. The two then entered the building from opposite sides and climbed the stairs to the roof, where Labrie said they took in a nighttime view of campus, which was buzzing with activity related to graduation weekend. “I thought it was a really pretty view and I wanted to share it with her,” Labrie told the court, recalling that he thought the girl was having “a great time” as she took in the sight of the school dorms and chapel aglow with light.

Labrie said the two stood on the roof for five to ten minutes, trying to “soak it all in,” before they went inside an attic area full of buzzing HVAC machines and old science equipment. As their sexual contact escalated, Labrie said he thought they were going to have sex so he got up and took a condom from his shorts pocket and began to put it on. Labrie said Wednesday that it had been an attempt at humor. “That’s a rhetorical question, and, um, it’s a joke,” he said. “It’s not that funny now, however.” It was among a litany of messages read this week by several friends of Mr.

By the end of last week, the court had seen minimal evidence beyond the accuser’s testimony (as well as that of her mother and friend) that her encounter with Labrie was not consensual. The trial has put a spotlight on the 159-year-old highly selective Episcopal prep school, which boasts an alumni roster that includes multiple chief executives, U.S. ambassadors and political figures. “Current allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people who represent our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff,” St. Concord Police Detective Julie Curtin, who first interrogated Labrie, said authorities were able to access more than 100 messages he had deleted from his Facebook account, which might suggest he had something to hide.

Carney if the girl seemed fearful, Labrie said no. “We were chatting the way we did all year,” Labrie said, referring to early testimony he gave that the two had a passing, social relationship. In 2011, the Education Department recommended that alleged victims be required to prove only that it was “more likely than not” that harassment or violence occurred to hold an accused person responsible. In July 2014, after the allegations, he wrote that boarding schools need to be equally aware of their “legal and moral responsibilities in this area.” Throughout his testimony, Labrie spoke often of his mother, referring to her as “momma” and describing how she hugged him in the lobby of the Concord Police building after he finished his interview with detectives. The release went on to say that it is not uncommon for sexual assault victims to freeze during the incident. “We know from neuroscientists and trauma experts that in times of extreme stress, and particularly when a person feels that they are in danger, the brain’s fear response takes over,” the group, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said in its statement.

The school rector, Mike Hirschfeld, told students in a letter last summer that participating in games involving sexual solicitation would be grounds for expulsion, and has said in a statement that allegations about the culture at St. Rather, he said during questioning from his own lawyer, he did not tell the truth because the encounter had ended awkwardly, and satisfying his friends’ expectations seemed easier.

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