Sex Crimes

Recent prep school grad accused of raping freshman describes their relationship as 'flirty'

  • Prosecutors Catherine Ruffle, center, and Joseph Cherniske, left, leave the judges bench with defense lawyers Sam Zaganjori, right, and J.W. Carney in Merrimack County Superior Court during the rape trial of former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Concord, N.H. The prosecution announced it had closed its case. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of the Senior Salute, a practice of sexual conquest at the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)

    Prosecutors Catherine Ruffle, center, and Joseph Cherniske, left, leave the judges bench with defense lawyers Sam Zaganjori, right, and J.W. Carney in Merrimack County Superior Court during the rape trial of former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Concord, N.H. The prosecution announced it had closed its case. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of the Senior Salute, a practice of sexual conquest at the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie raises his hand as he is sworn-in prior to testifying in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of Senior Salute, in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving the prestigious school in Concord. The defense contends the two had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)

    Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie raises his hand as he is sworn-in prior to testifying in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of Senior Salute, in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving the prestigious school in Concord. The defense contends the two had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie testifies in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of Senior Salute, in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord. The defense contends the two had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)

    Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie testifies in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of Senior Salute, in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord. The defense contends the two had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

A former student charged with raping a freshman two days before he graduated from an elite New Hampshire prep school took the stand as the defense opened its case Wednesday, describing his relationship with his accuser as "flirty."

Owen Labrie, now 19, was a senior at St. Paul's School when a 15-year-old girl accused him of raping her as part of Senior Salute, a school tradition in which seniors try to romance and have intercourse with underclassmen before leaving campus. The defense contends the two had consensual sexual contact but not intercourse.

Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, testified Wednesday that he sent the girl an email inviting her to Senior Salute because he liked her.

"I wanted to ask her out," he said.

Last week, Labrie's accuser testified that she twice told him "no" during their encounter and that she felt "frozen" when he became aggressive.

Other students testified this week that Labrie — then 18 — was competing with friends to see how many girls they could "score" with before graduation and described a range of sexual encounters from kissing to intercourse that were part of Senior Salute.

One said Labrie initially told friends "with a smirk on his face" that he did not have sex with the girl but later told him privately that he did.

On Tuesday, Concord police Detective Julie Curtin testified that Labrie told her he had a playful encounter with the girl, who is now 16, but stopped short of having sex after a moment of "divine inspiration."

But defense attorney J.W. Carney suggested police had treated his client unfairly, trying to catch him off-guard by driving to Vermont to interview him and speaking to him without his parents present.

Investigators first met Labrie and his mother at a coffee shop, but after detectives said it would be better to talk at the police station, he agreed to be interviewed without his mother for nearly four hours.

The case has cast a critical light on St. Paul's School, which boasts as alumni an international roster of senators, congressmen, ambassadors, Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel laureates and other notables.