The trial cast a harsh light on the culture of the elite 160-year-old St. Paul’s School
CONCORDE: A New Hampshire judge will determine on Thursday whether a former prep school student found guilty of having sex with an underage classmate will be sent to prison or serve probation.
The student, 20-year-old Owen Labrie, could face a sentence of up to 11 years in prison after being convicted in August of three misdemeanor counts of sexual assault for having sex with a girl under the age of 16 and one felony count, using a computer to “lure” a minor for sexual activity.
It is the felony count that carries the potential prison time and also could require Labrie to register as a sex offender for life.
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The trial cast a harsh light on the culture of the elite 160-year-old St. Paul’s School, with former students discussing the tradition of a “senior salute,” in which final-year students invited underclassmen for sexual encounters.
Labrie was found not guilty of three counts of felony rape against the teen, who was a 15-year-old freshman at the time of their encounter last year on the campus of their boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire.
Prosecutors had argued that the victim accepted Labrie’s invitation for a “senior salute” but never intended to have sex with him.
Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler could sentence Labrie to a maximum of 11 years in jail, but he also has the discretion to waive any jail time.
Labrie’s attorney, J.W. Carney, urged Smukler to give Labrie probation rather than a jail sentence.
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“His crucible over the past 18 months has provided a 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 papers filed on Wednesday.
Carney also noted that Labrie had already lost a full scholarship to Harvard University and that his name would forever be associated with the case.
Labrie’s greatest punishment, Carney argued, would be the requirement that he register as a sex offender, a “scarlet letter” that would accompany him throughout his life.
Carney’s memo includes photos of Labrie as a boy and written pleas for leniency from former teachers and classmates, as well as a reverend who praised his extraordinary “depth of theological and spiritual curiosity.”
County prosecutors are expected to make their own recommendation for Labrie’s sentence on Thursday.