Will Owen Labrie Get A New Trial? Here's Why He Wants One
In 2015, then-20-year-old Owen Labrie was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl at his prep school in New Hampshire. Although he was acquitted of a more serious rape charge, Labrie was sentenced to one year in jail, followed by probation. Now, Labrie wants a new trial, but it's unclear if he'll get one.
Labrie attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. When he was 18, he allegedly participated in the school's traditional "Senior Salute." According to The Washington Post, the tradition goes that upperclassmen seek out encounters with younger students. Labrie originally faced nine charges, including three counts of felony aggravated sexual assault, three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of misusing a computer. In August of 2015, a jury found him not guilty of the first three felony counts and a simple assault count, but guilty of the final five counts. He was sentenced in October and required to register as a sex offender for life.
On Tuesday, Labrie's case will be brought back to court. He'll begin a four-day hearing, which will determine if he gets a new trial. According to the Associated Press, Labrie has requested a new trial because his previous lawyers were ineffective, his current lawyer said.
Although it's too early to say whether or not Labrie will get a second chance in court, it is clear that a new trial could be risky. If the new trial is granted, Labrie wouldn't face the charges that he has been acquitted of, but he would face the charges he was found guilty of. He could also face new charges if the prosecution decides to pursue any.
Still, Labrie's lawyer, Robin Melone, seems to believe there's an opportunity for at least one charge — misuse of a computer — to be overturned. As the AP reported, Melone argues that the emails exchanged between Labrie and his alleged victim did not leave the school's server and, therefore, were not technically online, as the law requires.
Since his conviction, Labrie spent a short time in jail after he violated his curfew. He was released last May to await his appeal, but he must wear a GPS monitor and he has a strict curfew that requires him to be at his mother's Vermont house from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. each day.
Ironically, when Labrie graduated from his prep school — which has such famous and respected alumni as former Secretary of State John Kerry — he was awarded the headmaster's award for "selfless devotion to School activities." For its part, the school has remained somewhat quiet, but the then-board of trustees president addressed in a 2016 letter to the school community that St. Paul's denies responsibility for Labrie's misconduct.
Labrie is now 21 years old, and the alleged assault occurred nearly three years ago. The case that may have once seemed closed is back in the spotlight, with Labrie requesting a new trial. His four-day hearing will begin on Tuesday to determine what happens next.