Pupil at top US school denies raping teenage girl in graduation 'contest'
A prefect at an elite US boarding school has been accused of raping a 15-year-old girl as part of a competition among sixth-form boys to take the virginity of younger female students in their final days before graduation.
The trial of Owen Labrie (19), who was bound for Harvard, has cast a harsh light on hidden traditions and sexual escapades at St Paul's in New Hampshire, a $56,000 (€49,000)-a-year school whose alumni include John Kerry, the US Secretary of State.
Labrie allegedly told police after his arrest last year that he was "trying to be number one" in the competition, and prosecutors said he made a list of girls he was interested in and capitalised the name of his alleged victim.
Both prosecution and defence agree that Labrie emailed the girl and asked her to take part in "a senior salute", a custom where graduating boys try to spend time with younger students before they leave.
The case has confronted the school with questions on whether teachers knew about the "senior salute", a tradition that has been passed down for years among older students, but did nothing to stop it.
Labrie said in the email he had gained access to a secluded room in the campus's multi-million-dollar science building, which offered views of the sprawling St Paul's campus sometimes referred to as "Millville".
"I want to invite you to come with me to climb these hidden steps and bask in the nicest view Millville has to offer," he wrote.
The girl initially said no but later changed her mind and agreed to meet him after Labrie enlisted one of her classmates to help persuade her. What happened next is a matter for the jury.
The alleged victim told the court through tears last week that Labrie forced himself on her even though she told him she did not want to have sex. "I was raped," she said.
The defence team says the pair did not have sex and Labrie himself is expected to take the stand to give his version of the story.
Both sides have relied on emails and Facebook messages between the teenagers as well as testimony from Labrie's friends, many of whom are now at Ivy League universities.
In one message after the alleged incident, the girl joked to Labrie: "I also lost my earring up there. haha."
Labrie's lawyers said it was unlikely someone who had just been raped would type out the light-hearted message.
The trial continues.