Judge revokes bail for Owen Labrie
CONCORD, N.H. — Owen Labrie, the former St. Paul’s School student convicted of sexually assaulting an underage girl on campus, was sent to jail Friday for violating the terms of his release by missing court-ordered curfews.
Labrie, who was free on bail while he appealed his conviction, showed no emotion as the judge ordered him to begin serving his one-year sentence. He was led away in handcuffs, as his mother broke down in tears.
Judge Larry Smukler, who in October called Labrie a liar as he sentenced him to jail, said Labrie had brought this on himself.
“You made the decision,” he said, culminating a tense hearing in Merrimack Superior Court.
Prosecutors said Labrie had thumbed his nose at his bail conditions by traveling to Boston several times, sometimes to visit his girlfriend at Harvard University. Under his bail conditions, Labrie was confined to his mother’s home in Vermont between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. each day.
“He has been moving about the New England states as he sees fit,” prosecutor Catherine Ruffle said. “He wants to ask forgiveness now because he failed to ask for permission.”
Labrie’s lawyer, Jaye Rancourt, said Labrie had been traveling to Boston to conduct research, attend a lecture, and meet with professors, and also had meetings with his lawyers.
She acknowledged Labrie had sometimes left his home earlier than his curfew allowed, but only did so to “fly under the radar” and avoid public attention.
“He’s sorry for that,” she said. “He was essentially stuck in his home.”
Prosecutors moved to revoke Labrie’s bail after a Feb. 29 incident in which Labrie was spotted on an MBTA Red Line train in Cambridge by a reporter, who described her conversation with Labrie in a series of posts on Twitter and a later article for VICE.
Her account spurred a detailed investigation involving security video and credit card statements that revealed that Labrie, 20, had broken his curfew on “at least seven occasions,” prosecutors said.
“It’s our position that these are willful violations,” Ruffle said.
The bail revocation marked an abrupt turn in the high-profile case, which drew national attention to the sexual culture at the elite boarding school and sparked debate about laws around sexual assault.
In a split verdict in August, a jury acquitted Labrie of raping a 15-year-old on the school’s campus in May 2014, while convicting him of having sex with the girl, who was below the age of consent.
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.
At sentencing, Smukler said Labrie’s denials that he had sex with the girl were not credible.
On Friday, Smukler referred to “credibility issues throughout this trial” in explaining his decision, although he acknowledged that he could not determine whether Labrie traveled to Boston for education or recreation.
“The problem is, that you took it upon yourself to [consider] the spirit of the bail order, and not the letter,” Smukler said.
Outside the courthouse, Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray lauded Smukler’s decision to revoke Labrie’s bail.
“Bail orders have to be complied with,” he said outside the courthouse. “That’s the message.”
Rancourt criticized the judge’s decision to send Labrie to jail but said she has not decided whether to appeal.
Labrie “wasn’t going out all night, drinking, hanging out with bad people,” Rancourt said. “He was getting up early in the morning to try to better his life. Now he’s going to jail.”
She said Labrie is “in shock” over the judge’s decision.
“He’s not mentally ready to spend time in jail,” she said to reporters. “Owen is a resilient young man. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but I’m heartbroken.”
Labrie will continue to appeal his conviction to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, she said.
At trial, prosecutors said Labrie targeted the freshman girl as part of a school tradition called “Senior Salute,” in which departing seniors seek to have sexual encounters with younger students.
Labrie and the girl arranged to meet on graduation weekend and went to a secluded mechanical room. The girl testified that Labrie raped her. Labrie testified that the entire encounter was mutual, and that he decided against having sex after a moment of “divine inspiration.”
In an impact statement, Labrie’s accuser said she remains traumatized by the attack.
One legal observer said he was not surprised the judge’s decision.
“He’s a pretty straightforward judge,” said Albert Scherr, a law professor at the University of New Hampshire who has closely followed the case. “He made it clear at the trial that these are your [bail] conditions, pending appeal. If you violate them, you’ll go to jail.”