CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A judge declined Tuesday to shorten the jail term for an elite prep school graduate convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old classmate in 2015, saying he needed to consider the victim’s family, which wants him to serve the remaining 10 months of his sentence.
Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler appeared unmoved by defense arguments that Owen Labrie, 23, of Tunbridge, Vermont had become more mature and had already been punished by being under a curfew and having to wear an electronic monitoring device. Prosecutors wanted Labrie to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Instead, Smukler said, his decision to uphold the sentence took into account “justice for the victim.” He accepted a defense request that Labrie begin serving the sentence the day after Christmas but rejected a request that he be allowed out for work release.
“Given the crimes and the circumstances, it is just not appropriate to amend the sentence,” Smukler said.
Labrie was acquitted in 2015 of raping a 15-year-old classmate as part of “Senior Salute,” a game of sexual conquest, at St. Paul’s School. But a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault charges and endangering the welfare of a child. He also was convicted of using a computer to lure an underage student for sex, requiring him to register as a sex offender.
Labrie did not speak during the hearing, nor did he comment to reporters as he left the courthouse. Several of his relatives and friends also left without speaking to reporters, with one crying as she walked out.
“Disappointed. It’s been a very long haul for him,” Labrie’s attorney, Jaye Rancourt, said. “He was a very young man at the time he was convicted. We had hoped four years later would be a different outcome. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.”
In making her case for suspending the sentence, Rancourt detailed how Labrie had followed the rules since his conviction, other than the curfew violation that resulted in him serving two months in jail. She noted he has recently worked two jobs, partly to pay for the cost of the electronic monitoring, and presented the court with several letters from employers that spoke to his “character and hard work.”
Rancourt also talked about how Labrie has struggled to find work because of the case and how he and his family have been subjected to abuse, including piles of hate mail. She acknowledged Labrie “had a great deal of remorse” but insisted the school was also to blame for allowing “a highly sexualized culture” that “fostered if not encouraged some of this behavior.”
“He recognizes that he was not respectful to women … and that is very shameful for him,” Rancourt said. “This young man now has to live the rest of his life with the majority of people in the world thinking that is him … when in fact it’s not. He is actually a very caring, sensitive individual whose life has been unalterably changed by this case and the publicity that it has generated.”
Last month, the state Supreme Court upheld Labrie’s convictions on the computer charge. The court dismissed arguments by Labrie’s lawyers that prosecutors had failed to prove intent in his use of the computer and that the law was meant to be used to target internet predators and pedophiles, not cases like this.
The court is also considering a separate appeal in which Labrie’s lawyers argue he deserves a new trial over ineffective counsel. His lawyer argued his original counsel in the 2015 case failed to mount a defense against the computer charge or effectively communicate that Labrie had no intention of having sex with Chessy Prout when he sent her the messages.
The lead trial lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., is a well-known defense attorney whose clients included the late Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.
Two years ago, Prout spoke publicly about the assault for the first time. Prout, now 20, has since become an advocate for sexual assault survivors and co-wrote a memoir, “I Have The Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope,” with Boston Globe journalist Jenn Abelson.
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