Friday 9 December 2016

Rape trial puts spotlight on 'sex traditions' and 'senior salute' at elite US boarding school

Ted Siefer

Published 26/08/2015 | 13:24

Rape trial puts spotlight on 'sex traditions' and 'senior salute' at elite US boarding school
Rape trial puts spotlight on 'sex traditions' and 'senior salute' at elite US boarding school

Lawyers for a former student at an elite New Hampshire prep school on Wednesday are due to begin making the defense case for the 19-year-old accused of raping a 15-year-old girl days before graduation last year.

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Owen Labrie has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting the younger student at St. Paul's School in Concord in an attack that has cast a harsh light on the boarding school's culture.

Defense attorney J.W. Carney has contended that Labrie and the girl, who last week testified that Labrie raped her in a machine room in a building on campus, had a consensual encounter that followed a friendly, flirtatious exchange between the two that did not include intercourse.

"There's no question knew exactly what she was doing," Carney, whose prior clients have included former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, said in his opening statement last week. "It was a source of pride for girls at the school to participate in senior salute."

The "senior salute" is a school tradition in which graduating students extend invitations to get together with younger students, often for sexual purposes, several students testified during the trial.

St Paul's, whose alumni include powerful U.S. business and political leaders such as Secretary of State John Kerry, has said "senior salute" does not reflect its values.

Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, is expected to testify, perhaps as early as Wednesday. He faces three felony assault charges, which each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Friends of Labrie's this week testified that he had told them he had sex with the girl and prosecutors showed an emailed message containing a list of people he wanted to have sex with that included the girl.

The alleged victim, now 16, last week testified that she had expected to kiss Labrie when she accepted his invitation but no more.

She said she did not immediately report the incident as a rape because she did not want to create a scene at a time when her family was at the school for her older sister's graduation.

"I was not about to make this weekend about me," she said. "That was too selfish, that was the thought in my head."

Reuters

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