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Judge orders attorney off Labrie conviction challenge

Owen Labrie was escorted out of the Merrimack County Superior Courtroom after a judge agreed to new bail conditions last week. Jim Cole/Associated Press/Pool

Owen Labrie may have to find a new lawyer, after a New Hampshire judge on Tuesday disqualified the attorney challenging his conviction for sexually assaulting a fellow student at St. Paul’s School.

Superior Court Judge Larry M. Smukler issued an order that said Jaye L. Rancourt may not handle Labrie’s efforts to secure a new trial based on claims that he had ineffective representation.

Rancourt was one of Labrie’s lawyers at the time, Smukler wrote, raising concerns about her ability to challenge the trial defense.

“Continued representation could potentially be adverse to her interests,” the order said.

Labrie’s challenge focuses on the tactics of the two Boston attorneys who took the lead at his trial last year, when he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman girl at the Concord boarding school in May 2014.

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The two lawyers, J.W. Carney Jr. and Sam Zaganjori, are no longer handling the case.

Although Rancourt was not in court every day during the trial, Smukler wrote that because she was Labrie’s local counsel and her name appeared on many court documents, she “was part of the defense team she now claims was ineffective.”

Smukler also wrote that Rancourt will likely be a witness in Labrie’s challenge. Prosecutors had moved to have her disqualified as Labrie’s lawyer.

In an interview Tuesday, Rancourt said the defense is considering whether to appeal Smukler’s decision or ask him to reconsider. Rancourt had previously argued that she had a “narrow and circumscribed role with respect to the trial preparation and proceedings in this case.”

She had sought to address concerns about her involvement by bringing in additional lawyers, an effort Smukler also denied.

“Owen has expressed a desire to have me remain counsel if possible, so we are exploring what legal avenues there are,” Rancourt said. “However, if it stands that I cannot represent Owen, someone will step in and take my place.”

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In previous filings, Rancourt claimed that Carney and Zaganjori did not sufficiently defend Labrie against a felony charge that he used an Internet service to entice the underage girl.

Labrie was convicted on that count, along with misdemeanor sexual assault charges involving a minor. He was acquitted of separate felony allegations as jurors concluded that he had sex with the girl, but that prosecutors failed to prove he had acted without her consent.

Rancourt’s filing had claimed that the lawyers carried out a “fundamentally flawed’’ strategy by not directly challenging the computer enticement allegation.

That decision “resulted in a miscarriage of justice for Mr. Labrie,’’ the filing said.

Rancourt is also representing Labrie as he appeals his conviction, but that separate proceeding is on hold while the ineffective counsel matter is resolved.

Though Smukler’s order does not affect the appeal directly, Rancourt said it could play a role if the request for retrial is denied and then challenged in a higher court.


Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.