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Prep school student acquitted of felony rape, found guilty of sexual offenses

The case involving a former St. Paul's senior and a 15-year old was closely watched and contributed to the ongoing national dialogue about sexual assault and cultural norms.

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    Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie testifies in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.
    Charles Krupa/AP
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A jury found Owen Labrie not guilty of felony rape charges Friday in a Concord, N.H., courtroom. But the former senior at St. Paul’s School wept as a guilty verdict was read for one felony count for using a computer online service to lure or entice a child into sexual acts.

He will face sentencing Oct. 29 for the felony, and for multiple guilty verdicts on misdemeanor sexual assault charges for his actions with a schoolmate who was 15 – under the age of legal consent – at the time of an encounter on campus that he described as consensual and she described as rape.

The case was closely watched and contributed to the ongoing national dialogue about sexual assault and cultural norms that victims’ advocates say contribute to sexual violence – such as St. Paul’s “senior salute,” in which senior boys attempt to get together with younger girls, sometimes pursuing them for sexual bragging rights.

“Today, a measure of justice has been served for victims of sexual violence,” the victim’s family said in written statement. “While he was not convicted on all charges, Owen Labrie was held accountable in some way by a jury of his peers for crimes he committed against our daughter. This conviction requires him to take ownership for his actions and gives him the opportunity to reflect upon the harm he has caused.”

But the family also faulted the school and other students for contributing to the girl’s distressing experience. “We continue to feel anger and disappointment for the lack of character and integrity that the young men of St. Paul’s School showed, laughing and joking with Owen Labrie at graduation about ‘slaying’ our daughter. Both the school and these young men should bear the shame of these crimes along with Owen Labrie,” they said.

St. Paul’s School head Michael Hirschfield commended “the remarkable moral courage and strength demonstrated by the young woman” in a written statement, and reiterated “our responsibility to ensure that our students live and learn together in a community that is built on respect, caring, and support for one another.”

In the wake of Labrie’s arrest, the school said it would expel students participating in any games or traditions involving sexual solicitation, the Associated Press reports.

The misdemeanor guilty verdicts were for sexual assault, including penetration, but the felony rape charges would have required a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the girl did not consent.

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If Labrie receives the maximum sentences he could face as much as 11 years in prison, and he will have to register as a sex offender. The three felony charges on which he was cleared carried maximum sentences of 10 to 20 years each. 

A statement was not yet available from Labrie’s defense attorney at the time of publication.

 
 
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