Alleged NH Prep School Rape Victim Takes the Stand

The alleged victim took the stand Tuesday afternoon after opening arguments in the rape case involving an elite New Hampshire prep school that has raised questions about the campus culture.

The teen, who is not being named because of her age and the nature of the alleged crime, told the court that she and defendant Owen Labrie were not friends and that she was 15 at the time of the incident last year, The Associated Press reported.

Labrie, 19, of Tunbridge, Vermont, is a graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. He is accused of raping the girl on campus on May 30, 2014, days before he graduated.

Before her testimony, Labrie’s lawyer, Boston defense attorney J.W. Carney, displayed enlarged printouts of email exchanged between Labrie and the alleged victim before that time, including what he called “romantic” language in French.

“Now I’m presenting an opening about what the evidence will be, but needless to say, neither of us were there, none of you were there, and what you’ve got to focus on is what the evidence is that you find credible, believable, persuasive,” Carney told the jury Tuesday morning, asking them to zero in on the alleged victim’s words about whether she was a “willing participant.”

He read to the jury a text message conversation that allegedly took place after May 30 in which the alleged victim asked Labrie if he wore a condom and he asks if she was using “the pill,” and the two text “haha” several times.

The trial broke midday as the defendant and lawyers for both sides joined the jurors on a trip to the school’s Math and Science building where the alleged rape occurred. They also stopped at the Concord Police Department.

Labrie has pleaded not guilty to multiple felony accounts and says he did not have sexual intercourse with the student.

Tuesday morning, Labrie, wearing a dark gray blazer and white, had walked into the courtroom as his eyes swept the packed benches taking in former classmates, family members and national media.

His parents sat in the front row on opposite ends of the bench. They are divorced, according to records.

Officials were forced to set up a standing-room-only section in the back of courthouse.

Labrie stood when the judge read the 10-count indictment: four felonies and six misdemeanors, including three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, as well as using a computer on-line service to seduce, lure or entice a child younger than 16.

Merrimack County Superior Court Justice Larry M. Smukler instructed the jurors to “evaluate each charge independently” before prosecutors began opening arguments.

Jury selection Monday included three women and 11 men.

Labrie was interviewed by Concord police, who said he spoke willingly about an alleged practice at the Episcopal school called a “senior salute,” according to the Associated Press. He claims it involved senior boys attempting to “score” with younger female students, taking their virginity, before the boys graduated. Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle Monday said the alleged practice is “the context for this entire event,” according to the Associated Press.

Tuesday, she said, “This case is about Owen Labrie sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl,” and not the school.

“It’s about how he thought about this for months, how he made a plan, and he executed the plan in an isolated, secluded, mechanical room in the Lindsay building, on campus,” Ruffle told jurors.

Ruffle say that Labrie called his sexual conquests “slays” and the only person whose name was capitalized in a list on March 1, 2014 was that of the 15-year old freshman.

Prosecutor Ruffle said in court Tuesday that the “senior salute” practice was largely intended as a way “to be with someone that they might have wanted to be with throughout” high school, and could include activities like walking to class together or kissing but “it might include a little bit more.”

She then argued that it was Labrie who turned the tradition into a sexual competition.

Carney downplayed the sexual nature of the “senior salute” and argued that it was a tradition that’s “decades” old and focused on kissing another student and not sexual intercourse.

The school, whose alumni include Secretary of State John Kerry and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, said in a statement Monday that the allegations about the school’s culture are “not proven facts, and the judicial system will weigh them and determine how this case is ultimately resolved.”