Motion filed to set aside felony conviction in Labrie case

Lawyers for Owen Labrie, the former St. Paul’s School student who was acquitted last month of raping a 15-year-old girl but found guilty of lesser charges, have filed a motion to set aside his most serious conviction.

The conviction of using a computer to entice a minor could carry a maximum sentence of seven years behind bars.

In a motion filed Friday, Labrie’s lawyers asserted that the conviction is “inconsistent with the overall purpose of the criminal code,” and violates his constitutional rights. The motion also asked the court to relieve Labrie of the duty to register as a sex offender even if the conviction is not overturned.

A jury found Labrie guilty of a felony charge of using computer services to lure the 15-year-old fellow student. The conviction relied on e-mails and Facebook messages Labrie sent her in arranging to meet one night in May 2014 in a secluded building on the campus of the elite Concord, N.H., boarding school.

Labrie’s lawyers and other legal specialists have described the charges as an overreach, saying the law was not meant to apply to teenagers making social plans.

“It is clear from the broader context of the criminal code that the legislature did not intend for this result,” his lawyers wrote. Noting that the maximum penalty for misdemeanor sexual assault is one year, the lawyers wrote that “it is dubious that the legislature intended to increase the penalty sevenfold simply because the offender used a computer. . . .

“Were it intended to apply in cases of misdemeanor sexual assault, there is no rational reason that the legislature would have created such disparate sentencing caps,” the lawyers wrote.

In a split verdict Aug. 28, the jury found Labrie guilty of three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault. The charges would commonly be referred to as statutory rape, which in this case were misdemeanors because the difference in age between Labrie, then 18, and the 15-year-old was four years or less.

After the verdict, Labrie’s lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. indicated he might appeal the enticement conviction.

“If he had merely called the 15-year-old on the telephone or spoken to her in person, there would be no additional crime,” lawyers wrote in the motion. “Yet because he prearranged the encounter through e-mail and Facebook, he will be subjected to the scrutiny and humiliation of sex offender registration for the rest of his life.”

The widely followed trial cast light on the private school’s sexual culture, particularly a “senior salute” tradition in which graduating seniors look to arrange trysts with younger students.