In a case that scandalized an institution known for educating some of America’s top political and literary leaders, a graduate of an elite prep school was sentenced to a year in jail for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl as part of a sexual conquest competition.
Twenty-year-old Owen Labrie of Tunbridge, Vermont, on Thursday also was ordered to register as a sex offender for life in connection with the May 2014 assault at St. Paul’s School in Concord and to serve five years of probation after he gets out of jail. He can petition to be removed from the sex offender list 15 years after he completes his sentence.
Before the sentencing, the victim — who was 15 at the time — said in a videotaped statement said she was subjected to verbal and physical retaliation from other students after her return to St. Paul’s and has been living in “near constant fear” since the assault.
Labrie’s arrest exposed a tradition at the $55,290-a-year boarding school called Senior Salute, in which upperclassmen kept score of how many younger students they had sex with. The national media attention the case attracted tarnished the reputation of the exclusive school, whose alumni include Secretary of State John Kerry, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, at least 13 U.S. ambassadors and three Pulitzer Prize winners.
Labrie could have gotten 11 years in prison. His lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., argued for probation, saying Labrie already has been punished enough and will live his life marked by being a convicted sex offender. Following the assault scandal, Labrie lost his full scholarship to Harvard, and St. Paul’s refused to add his name to an engraved list of graduates.
Labrie originally was charged with rape, accused of forcing himself on the girl in a dark mechanical room in 2014, just before his graduation. He was 18 at the time. A jury in August cleared him of rape and convicted him instead of misdemeanor sexual assault for having intercourse and other sexual contact with an underage girl.
He also was found guilty of a felony count of using a computer — specifically, Facebook and email — to lure the girl.
Prosecutors and victim advocates after the sentencing lauded the judge for stressing that the assault was not consensual. Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler said the forcible rape acquittal does not mean that the victim consented to sexual penetration.
“It is clear from the impact of this crime that she did not,” the judge said. He also called Labrie “a very good liar.”
The victim said Thursday she has been made to feel as if she would be “better off dead. She also took Carney to task for suggesting in his final arguments that she took “the easy way out” by accusing Labrie of raping her.
“That breaks my heart,” she said. “Who would want endless nausea and panic every day for a year and a half?”
“Now I know why people don’t come forward,” she said of victims. “It kills me to say that.”
The girl said she was seeking justice for herself and others. “I’m so scared that he will do this again,” she said. “He has denied all responsibility and has shown no remorse or understanding of what he did to me.”
Labrie did not speak in court. Instead, he submitted a statement that was not immediately made public. But the judge found it lacking.
“The consequences you spoke about all revolve around yourself and your family,” Smukler said. “They do not consider the victim.”
Prosecutor Catherine Ruffle had asked the judge to give Labrie 3½ to 7 years in prison.
“The evidence was very clear this was not a date,” she said. “This was a mission for him. This was a sexual conquest. It was a game.”
A glum-looking Labrie hugged his weeping mother. He was allowed to remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction.
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