Metro

Labrie sentenced to year in jail, probation in sex assault case

Owen Labrie (center) stood with his lawyer, J.W. Carney, before being sentenced Thursday in Merrimack County Superior Court.
Jim Cole/AP
Owen Labrie (center) stood with his lawyer, J.W. Carney, before being sentenced Thursday in Merrimack County Superior Court.

CONCORD, N.H. — A judge on Thursday sentenced former St. Paul’s School student Owen Labrie to a year in jail for sexually assaulting an underage girl on campus, calling him a liar and denying his claim that the encounter was consensual.

After a lengthy hearing that featured emotional impact statements from Labrie’s accuser and her family, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry M. Smukler said Labrie’s acquittal on forcible rape charges did not mean the 15-year-old had consented to sex, as she was too young to do so.

“She was in over her head,” Smukler said from the bench in a Concord courtroom, as Labrie listened stoically. “That’s very clear.”

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The sentence brought a dramatic close to the high-profile case, which cast an unflattering light on the sexual culture at St. Paul’s and featured emotional and sharply divergent testimony from Labrie, a polished, popular senior, and his younger accuser.

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In August, in a split verdict, a jury acquitted Labrie, 20, of raping the girl in a secluded room on the school’s campus in May 2014. But the panel convicted Labrie of having sex with the girl, who was below the age of consent, a conviction for which he faced up to four years in prison. The jury also found Labrie guilty of using computer services to lure a minor, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. Labrie received a suspended sentence on that count.

In his ruling Thursday, Smukler said Labrie’s denials that he had sex with the girl, then a freshman at St. Paul’s, were not credible.

“This is a day of justice for the victim,” Smukler said. “I have to recognize what you did to her when you committed the crime.”

Labrie did not address the court Thursday, and Smukler doubted whether any expressions of regret would have been sincere.

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“Bluntly, if you did express remorse, I think it would have been dishonest,” he said. “In some ways, you’re a very good liar.”

Labrie’s sentence was stayed when his lawyers said they would appeal the verdict. As a condition of his conviction, Labrie has also registered as a sex offender. After 15 years he can apply to have his name removed from the registry, though he would still be bound by its restrictions.

Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the group was pleased with the sentence.

“Although no amount of time can make up for the harm that has been done to this victim and her family, knowing that Owen Labrie is being held accountable for what he did is a small consolation to the victim’s family, countless other victims and our community,” she said.

Labrie’s lawyers said that they were not surprised by the outcome, adding that Labrie stands by the truth of his account.

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Labrie was also sentenced to several years of probation and must pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to the girl’s family for her counseling bills.

Prosecutors said Labrie targeted the girl as part of a contest in which he and his friends were competing over sexual conquests. Labrie and the girl arranged to meet on graduation weekend in 2014 and went to a secluded mechanical room in a campus building.

At trial, the girl testified that as the encounter escalated, Labrie had sex with her over her many objections. Labrie testified that the entire encounter was mutual, and that he decided against having sex after a moment of “divine inspiration.”

In a recorded impact statement, Labrie’s accuser said she remains traumatized by the attack. She has panic attacks, vivid flashbacks to the incident, and struggles to show her family affection.

“Anytime I am touched unexpectedly, my entire body jolts,” she said.

She still feels numb, she told the court, and on the worst days “can’t feel anything.” She sometimes thinks “it would be easier if I just went away,” she said through tears.

She said she becomes ill when she thinks about what happened, and questions why she didn’t do more to fend Labrie off.

“Why didn’t I scream or push or kick or do anything?” she said. “Why couldn’t I move?”

She said the trial had been a terrible ordeal that made her understand why more victims do not come forward, but hoped the sentence would bring justice “not just for myself, but for others as well.”

She said she was afraid Labrie “is going to do this again,” causing Labrie to shake his head from side to side.

In her impact statement, the girl’s mother lashed out at Labrie, saying his “disgusting, misogynistic” messages to his friends revealed his true, sinister nature.

“He had cruel plans for her,” she said. “She was targeted and used in a game of sexual currency, at the age of 15.”

The girl’s father said Labrie “methodically targeted” his daughter, and bitterly quoted crudely sexual messages that Labrie exchanged with his friends.

“Every single day, every single second, I feel a profound sense of loss,” he said. “The defendant has stolen so much from my daughter and from my family.”

Prosecutors said the messages offered “an alarming glimpse of calculated, strategic behavior targeted toward young women.”

In one message, prosecutors said, Labrie said his style was to “feign intimacy . . . then stab them in the back . . . THROW EM IN THE DUMPSTER.”

Prosecutors said Labrie assaulted the girl as part of a contest with his friends to see who could have the most sexual encounters.

Labrie’s lawyer, J.W. Carney Jr., asked the judge to take Labrie’s character and values into account, saying he was a standout student and role model on campus. He was focused on joining the clergy and living a religious life, he said.

He said Labrie has “enormous remorse” over the encounter and the crude messages he sent. “He is humiliated that he did that,” Carney said.

At the start of the hearing, Labrie looked nervous, but he showed little emotion from then on. Just before the judge returned to deliver his sentence, he made the sign of the cross on his chest, then looked upward.

Carney said Labrie, who had been accepted to Harvard before his admission was rescinded, has already received a heavy punishment. “The punishment that Owen Labrie has suffered to date is enormous,” Carney added. “His life has been one of trauma trying to deal with these allegations.”

Andy Rosen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.