Everything You Need To Know About The St. Paul's Rape Case

Photo: Jim Cole/AP Photo.
On Tuesday, the case against Owen Labrie, a recent graduate of St. Paul's School, went to trial. Labrie is accused of raping a 15-year-old girl last spring, when he was a senior at the elite prep school in Concord, NH. As the trial unfolds, more and more horrifying details emerge daily from the courtroom, painting a vivid picture of the underbelly of boarding-school cultures, which may have fostered the environment where an assault like this could easily take place. Here's what you need to know:

St. Paul's School
St. Paul's is one of the most respected prep schools in the country, with an alumni roster that includes John Kerry, William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan, and dozens of high-profile leaders in the realms of politics, business, and culture. It's known for a rigorous adherence to tradition, though one ritual, held by students, was brought to light by this case. The "Senior Salute" is an annual competition among senior boys of who can have sex with the largest number of younger female students.

Owen Labrie

Labrie was 18 when the alleged assault took place on May 30, 2014. He was a prefect at St. Paul's and had been accepted to Harvard, where he planned to study theology. During his initial interview with Concord police, he spoke openly about the Senior Salute and his participation in it (hoping to be "number one"). He described the scoreboard he and his classmates kept, written in marker on a wall behind some washing machines (which, he says, the school kept painting over, so they eventually moved it online).
Photo: Courtesy St. Paul's School Facebook.
The Alleged Assault
Labrie's accuser, now 16, took the stand yesterday for her first round of testimony. She describes the initial friendly and flattering exchanges she had with Labrie, who "invited" her to join him in the Senior Salute. She was a freshman and first declined the offer, but was charmed when he continued to pursue her with romantic emails (one written partly in French). As The New York Times reports, she believed they would only be kissing at the most, and it would be cool to hang out with "one of the most popular boys."

They met on a campus rooftop, where there was "a beautiful view," but then, she says, Labrie brought her back inside to a locked machine room, which he opened with a key apparently passed around among senior boys. There, she described, they began kissing, and Labrie soon started groping her, bit her chest, and tried to remove her underwear several times. The girl told him no repeatedly but said she "tried to be as polite as possible." She went on to say (through sobs, the Times reports) how Labrie first penetrated her with his fingers, "scraping" her inside, and then with his penis, all the while calling her names and spitting on her.

She explained that, even as the assault was happening, she was afraid of offending this senior boy, or rocking the boat at her school. It was that fear that made her initially want to keep things amicable after the assault. "I thought, 'I’m at St. Paul’s right now, this is graduation weekend, I cannot be dramatic about this,'" she said in the courtroom yesterday.

The Charges
When the accuser eventually did report the assault, Labrie was subsequently charged with 10 criminal counts, including sexual assault and using a computer to lure the girl. He has pleaded not guilty to all. He and his defense team claim both that no intercourse took place and that the accuser was a willing participant in the Senior Salute. In his interview with police, Labrie explained that many younger girls at the school "take great pride" in such invitations.

Though Labrie acknowledged wearing a condom (and asking if she was on the pill) in an email exchange between the two after the alleged assault, his lawyer, J.W. Carney, maintains the encounter was nothing more than "kissing and hugging." As for why the girl would fabricate such a story, Carney echoed Labrie's sentiments, saying that being involved in the Senior Salute was a "source of pride."

The accuser is set to take the stand again today to give further testimony. We will continue to report on this trial as the story develops.

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