Owen Labrie, a former student at the prestigious St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, has been sentenced to one year in jail by a New Hampshire judge for sexually assaulting an underage classmate. Judge Larry Smukler also ordered Mr. Labrie to register as a sex offender for life.
The end of the trial came in August, after months of deliberation that brought a culture of objectification of young girls at the elite Concord preparatory school into the national spotlight. Of particular prominence in the case was the St. Paul’s tradition of the “senior salute,” in which graduating seniors would invite younger students into sexual encounters.
"This was not consensual," Jude Smukler said, according to Reuters. "You did not take the time to get to know the victim."
The victim was not present for the sentence, but gave her testimony by video. In it, she described how she continued to struggle with the memory of the assault. She was 15 and a freshman at St. Paul’s at the time Labrie assaulted her.
"I don't really know how to put one foot in front of another. I don't want to feel imprisoned the rest of my life," she said. “I want to be safe again, and I want justice."
Prosecutors in the case had argued that while the victim had accepted Labrie’s invitation for a “senior salute” before his graduation from the prep school, she never intended to have sex with him.
"It is clear from the impact of this crime that she did not," Smukler said, according to The Associated Press. He also referred to Labrie as "a very good liar."
Part of Labrie’s sentence includes a felony count for using a computer to send Facebook and email messages to the victim in an attempt to seduce her. While Labrie maintained that they did not have sex, his verbal and electronic communications to his classmates revealed a carefully-crafted trail of manipulation, with one intended final result.
In the victim’s statements during the trial, she described the humiliation and deep shame that she was made to feel following her return to St. Paul’s after the assault, saying that she had been living in "near constant fear” of retaliation from Labrie and others at the school.
Labrie’s attorney, J.W. Carney, believed that probation was a better-suited punishment for his client than prison.
During the trial, he had argued that Labrie lost a full scholarship to Harvard University and that his reputation was irreparably tarnished as a result of the case.
"Owen decided to engage in a 'senior salute.' He has tremendous remorse for doing what he did," Carney said. "Owen looked to St. Paul's to guide him and instead they misled him."
But the victim’s father, himself an alumnus of St. Paul’s, said during the trial that Labrie was very much a product of the school and its “entitled” culture.
"My little girl stood up to this entitled young man, she stood up to the entitled culture at St. Paul's, she stood up to the rape culture that exists in our society that allows boys to be boys and somehow says it is OK for men to do irreparable harm to girls," he said.
This report contains material from Reuters.