CONCORD, New Hampshire – A girl who says she was raped on the campus of a prestigious boarding school took the stand for a third day Thursday, breaking down as she answered questions from the defense attorney during a tense session inside a New Hampshire courthouse.
Later, the court also heard from several key witnesses in the case, as the prosecutor sought to show that the girl had been forced against her will to have sexual intercourse with the then-18 year defendant two days before he graduated from the St. Paul’s School here in Concord.
But one of the witnesses, a school nurse, told the court that the accuser had said she was not coerced into having intercourse with the defendant.
Owen Labrie, now 19 years old, is charged with several counts of felony sex assault, misdemeanor sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and using a computer to solicit or lure a child under the age of 16. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
The prosecutor in the case has said that the assault occurred as part of a school tradition called “Senior Salute,” in which graduating seniors seek out conquests with younger students. Labrie acknowledged the tradition during an interview with police, though be said this was not an instance of a “senior salute.” According to police documents, he also told police he did not have intercourse with the girl.
In court Thursday, defense attorney J.W. Carney pressed the accuser on her testimony over the past few days, asking her why she had told the court that she was hazy on certain details.
“You said to the jurors that you were ‘cloudy,’” Carney asked, adding later: “Why were you cloudy?”
“I was raped,” the girl said, growing emotional. “I was violated in so many ways,” she continued, through tears.
It was one of a number of wrenching moments during testimony from the girl, who has said she struggled to resist the graduating senior, concerned about “offending him” and coming off as “inexperienced.”
The girl says that Labrie led her to the rooftop of a campus math and science building, where the couple began kissing and removing clothing. That’s when Labrie became too assertive, the girl has said, biting her chest and forcing himself on her.
The girl has said that while she did not scream or kick, she said “no” three times.
After her testimony Thursday, the girl looked on from reserved seating, comforted at one point by her mother, who joined the family’s seating area after being called as a witness.
The court also heard from a St. Paul’s nurse Thursday, who said the accuser came to visit the school’s infirmary two days after the incident.
“She said that she had had intercourse for the first time, and it was unprotected and that she was requesting Plan B,” the nurse told the court, referring to birth control medication.
The nurse said the accuser was “teary eyed and nervous,” but that the girl told the nurse the encounter was consensual.
“Did you ask her if intercourse was coerced?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes, we talked about that, and she said it was consensual – it was not coerced,” the nurse said.
Under questioning by the defense, the nurse also said that the accuser did not mention anything about pain or discomfort.
However, other witnesses sought out by the girl after the incident told the court on Thursday that she had in fact been in discomfort.
A St. Paul’s classmate and close friend said the girl showed her marks on her chest, and a hospital nurse who performed a rape kit on the girl said the girl complained about discomfort, too.
The hospital nurse also told the court she found a “superficial” abrasion on the girl’s body, but the nurse would not speculate as to its origins.
Earlier, the classmate was also asked by the defense about an interview she gave police, during which the classmate described a conversation she had with the girl before the girl’s meeting with Labrie. The classmate said the girl had told her she would allow certain sex acts.
On Wednesday, under questioning by the defense about that police interview, the girl said she did not recall making that statement.
Throughout the testimony Thursday, Labrie, wearing dark slacks, a white shirt and tie, and a gray tweed coat, sat expressionless, a yellow legal pad on the table before him. He has made occasional notes in the pad throughout the proceedings, and his lawyer says he is “adamant” about testifying later in the trial.
In the meantime, the trial has cast a spotlight on campus culture at one of the country’s most exclusive private high schools.
According to its website, St. Paul’s has turned out a half dozen senators or members of congress and thirteen U.S. ambassadors, as well as a Nobel Prize winner and three Pulitzer Prize winners.
The school has said in a statement that the allegations run counter to its values.
“Current allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our School or our values, our rules, or the people who represent our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff,” the school said.
Carney, the defense attorney, told reporters after court Thursday that a defense counsel walks a “difficult line,” and said he was not too tough on the girl.
“You try to be professional, polite, respectful, and I believe I was all of those things today,” Carney said.
But while testimony Thursday focused on various gritty details of the girl’s account, moments of raw emotion were not far from the surface.
Describing a visit to the campus days after the alleged incident, the girl’s mother said her daughter led her back up the stairs to the rooftop where the encounter occurred.
The mother said her daughter stopped short before reaching the roof.
“She just sobbed hysterically, shaking uncontrollably,” the girl’s mother said. “I just recall holding her on the stairs.”