Metro

St. Paul’s parents helped fund Owen Labrie’s defense

Owen Labrie, center, listens to prosecutors with his lawyer J.W. Carney, left, before being sentenced in Merrimack County Superior Court, Thursday Oct. 29, 2015 in Concord, N.H. The graduate of the exclusive St. Paul’s School was sentenced to a year in jail for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman girl as part of a tradition in which upperclassmen competed to rack up sexual conquests. Labrie was allowed to remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)
Jim Cole/Associated Press
Owen Labrie’s defense team included attorney J.W. Carney, seen to the left of his client, who also represented James “Whitey” Bulger.

St. Paul’s School marshaled its considerable resources to defend its reputation after a star pupil was accused of raping a 15-year-old girl on campus, and prominent parents chipped in $100,000 toward Owen Labrie’s criminal defense, according to new filings in the victim’s lawsuit against the school.

Thursday’s filing in federal court in New Hampshire follows a widely criticized effort by the school’s lawyers to set limits on the anonymity of Labrie’s victim and bar her family’s lawyers from discussing the case publicly — “the latest example of the school’s serial attempts to bully a child to whom it owed a legal and moral duty of care,” the family’s lawyers wrote.

The school’s objection to the family’s anonymity was an effort to silence the girl, the lawyers allege. But though the girl’s status as a minor should prevent the school’s lawyers from naming her in any way, Thursday’s filing withdrew the request for anonymity — and said the lawsuit would soon be resubmitted with real names.

Advertisement

That would appear to blunt what the family’s lawyers said was an attempt to keep the girl “muzzled throughout this proceeding . . . just as she has for more than two years as her rapist, and the school that fostered and tolerated the toxic environment that led to the rape, engaged in a wide-ranging publicity campaign designed to intimidate her and her family and to undermine their credibility.”

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The lawsuit follows the high-profile prosecution of Labrie, who was acquitted of a felony rape charge but found guilty of three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, as the victim was legally too young to give consent. Labrie was also convicted of endangering a child and using computer services to lure a minor, and was later sentenced to a year in prison.

Labrie was 18 at the time of the assault. He was participating in a tradition on campus known as the Senior Salute — where male upperclassmen competed to have sex with younger female students before graduation — when he assaulted a freshman in May 2014 in an academic building, prosecutors said at his trial.

The parents of the girl filed a lawsuit against the school in June, calling the assault a “direct result of [St. Paul’s] fostering, permitting, and condoning a tradition of ritualized statutory rape.”

St. Paul’s lawyers have denied that the culture at the elite Concord, N.H., prep school contributed to the assault.

Advertisement

The documents filed on Thursday paint a picture of an orchestrated effort by St. Paul’s to distance the school from the charges against Labrie even as well-connected members of the school’s community rallied around him.

The school hired outside legal counsel and enlisted communications firms in Boston and New York and issued frequent statements seeking to distance the school from Labrie’s actions.

At the same time, the family’s lawyers allege, a group of wealthy parents and alumni paid for Labrie’s legal defense. “Prominent SPS parent” Joshua Abram, the cofounder and co-CEO of NeueHouse, a co-working space firm, sent an e-mail to parents and alumni seeking $100,000 to pay for Boston lawyer J.W. Carney Jr., who represented Whitey Bulger.

“Jay has litigated — with great success — literally dozens of cases very similar to Owen’s involving every major university and high school in the Boston area,” wrote Abram, who noted that he was contributing $10,000 to the effort.

“We hope that you will join the many other SPS families who feel that while the facts of this case can only be decided by a judge and jury,” Abram wrote, “we can be united in the bedrock principle that Owen has the right to his day in court with a proper defense.”

Advertisement

Meanwhile, “no one at the school undertook the slightest effort to raise a penny for Labrie’s victim, whose family was forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on counseling, travel, and many other expenses related to the assault,” the victim’s lawyers wrote.

Abram returned an initial e-mail seeking an interview for this story asking to see Thursday’s filings, but did not respond to subsequent e-mails. Two St. Paul’s spokesmen also did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents filed Thursday also rebut the school’s contention that the victim’s family had sought to try the case in the media, calling the notion that the teenage victim and her family orchestrated a carefully planned media campaign against the elite prep school and its Madison Avenue public relations firm “farcical, to put it charitably.”

Rather, it was St. Paul’s that sought to make the case to the media that the school bore no responsibility for Labrie’s actions, the victim’s lawyers allege, and even “enlisted former students and alumni to support Labrie and to attack J.D. and her family.”

In an affidavit accompanying Thursday’s filing, the victim’s father alleges that he saw the school’s lawyer and witness coordinator meeting with three students who had not yet testified. Their subsequent testimony “closely tracked press releases put out by the school (some using nearly identical language),” the victim’s lawyers wrote.

“SPS and its well-financed public-relations team has spared no expense in seeking to shield itself from any responsibility for a sexual assault,” the lawyers wrote.

Nestor Ramos can be reached at @globe.com.