CONCORD, New Hampshire – A teenage girl who says she was raped as a freshman at an elite New England boarding school returned to the stand on Wednesday with an emotional testimony, describing feeling frozen and disoriented during an alleged assault on the rooftop of a campus building last year.
“I felt like I was frozen,” the accuser said.
“I felt so scared,” she added. “I had no idea what was going on. I had never been put in a situation like that.”
Her second day on the witness stand, the girl continued recounting the events that led to the alleged assault. She described through occasional tears how she had been led up the stairs of a math and science building, where she alleges she was eventually sexually assaulted by an 18-year-old school senior, Owen Labrie.
Labrie, now 19, is accused of raping the then-15 year-old girl two days before he graduated from St. Paul’s School here in Concord. A once-bound Harvard University freshman, Labrie 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 the assault occurred as part of a school tradition called “Senior Salute,” in which members of the graduating class seek sexual conquests with younger students. Labrie in an interview with police acknowledged the tradition, though he said this was not an instance of a “Senior Salute.”
The girl testified that Labrie sent her a message over the school’s email system formally inviting her to a night out with him where they would take in a view from a campus building.
Initially, the girl said she declined the “gross” invitation because she associated it with a “Senior Salute;” she said she later accepted after a peer sought her out to vouch for Labrie.
“I thought he probably sent to many, many other people the exact same thing,” the girl said.
But the girl told the court she ultimately agreed to meet Labrie, evading school security as they made their way into the building and upstairs.
“I was excited to see something I hadn’t seen before,” she told the court about the promised view, adding that she was nervous about being caught.
The girl said that she and Labrie stood briefly on the roof, and that later, inside an industrial area. She said that the two began kissing and removed some clothing when Labrie became too aggressive, biting her chest and forcing himself on her.
The girl grew emotional as she recounted the intimate details of the encounter, responding to questions from the prosecutor as her family looked on from reserved seating, and telling the court that she didn’t kick or scream as the encounter went on.
“In that moment, I wasn’t strong enough,” the girl said.
She later told the court she said ‘no’ three times. “I don’t know how I could have made it more clear,” she said.
While she spoke, Labrie, in brown loafers and slacks, sat dedicated to his yellow legal pad, which he filled with notes arranged in an orderly fashion.
According to police documents, Labrie told police that he had a physical encounter with the accuser, but he said he had stopped short of intercourse.
Still, the girl was pressed by prosecutor Catherine Ruffle, the Deputy Merrimack County Attorney, about an email exchange she had with Labrie after the incident, in which Labrie described her as “an angel.”
Reading from copies of the messages displayed on a courtroom projector, the girl told the court that she replied: “You’re quite an angel yourself, but would you mind keeping the events of this evening to yourself for now?”
Asked why she had called Labrie an angel, the girl said she was trying not to upset him.
“It was almost like I was sticking to the script that he was offering,” she said of his email. “I thought it would be rude otherwise to ignore it, or it would cause him to approach me again if I ignored it. I was afraid of him coming after me again.”
In subsequent messages over Facebook, the girl told the court, she asked Labrie if he wore a condom and he assured her he had, and inquired if she was taking birth control medication.
Labrie’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, has said that the messages show the girl was a willing participant.
During cross examination on Wednesday, Carney questioned the accuser about the messages, though court adjourned not long afterward.
Speaking briefly with reporters outside the courthouse, Carney said the messages were central to the defense, and added that Labrie would testify.
“I think my client is the very strongest evidence in this case,” Carney said.
Earlier, Carney also presented to the court a transcript of a police interview with a friend of the girl. According to Carney, the friend is quoted in the transcript saying that the accuser had said prior to meeting Labrie that she would allow some sexual acts.
The accuser told the court under cross examination that she didn’t recall saying that.
St. Paul’s is among the country’s most prestigious boarding schools. According to its website, its graduates have included six senators or congressmen, three candidates for president, 13 U.S. ambassadors, a Nobel Prize winner and three Pulitzer Prize winners.
In a statement, St. Paul’s said that the allegations about culture on the campus do not reflect the school’s 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.