Ex-N.H. prep school senior found not guilty of rape, convicted of misdemeanors

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A former senior at a New Hampshire prep school was acquitted Friday of felony rape but convicted of misdemeanor sex charges in an encounter with a 15-year-old freshman that was part of a tradition of sexual conquest days before he graduated.

The jury of nine men and three women on Friday found Owen Labrie, 19, of Tunbridge, Vermont, not guilty of raping the girl in an academic building at St. Paul's School two days before he graduated last year.

He was found guilty of four misdemeanor sex assault charges.

Labrie collapsed in tears as the verdict was read in a Concord, N.H., courtroom.

"Today, a measure of justice has been served for victims of sexual violence," the accuser and her family said in a statement following the verdict. "While he was not convicted on all charges, Owen Labrie was held accountable in some way by a jury of his peers for crimes he committed against our daughter."

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    "There is no joy in this outcome, however, as our daughter can never get back what she has lost nor can St. Paul's School ever be our community again," they said.

    Their statement also accused St. Paul's of allowing and fostering a "toxic culture" that left students at risk to sexual violence.

    "We trusted the school to protect her and it failed us." the statement said. "We continue to feel anger and disappointment for the lack of character and integrity that the young men of St. Paul's School showed, laughing and joking with Owen Labrie at graduation about 'slaying' our daughter. Both the school and these young men should bear the shame of these crimes along with Owen Labrie."

    The girl was in the courtroom for the verdict.

    Labrie was cleared of three rape charges. He was found guilty of three misdemeanor sex assault counts and one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child. He was also convicted of a felony charge of using a computer to lure a minor for sexual contact.

    He faces up to a year in jail for the misdemeanors and 3 1/2 to 7 years for the felony.

    The jury deliberated 8 hours over two days before reaching a verdict.

    The rape could have put Labrie behind bars to 10 to 20 years.

    Prosecutors say the then-18-year-old Labrie raped the 15-year-old as part of a practice called Senior Salute, in which graduating students try to romance and have sex with underclassmen.

    Labrie testified the two had consensual sexual contact that stopped short of intercourse.

    Labrie's lawyer, J.W. Carney, told the jury the girl testified she had no recollection of her conversation with her best friend before meeting Labrie because to admit she stated graphically what conduct she was prepared to engage in "would destroy the whole image she'd been trying to create."

    "If you conclude she was not being truthful then I submit it taints her entire testimony," Carney said. "In order to put forward this story, she was willing to tell a lie about a critical fact right in front of you."

    Prosecutor Joseph Cherniske said the girl's expectations before her encounter with Labrie don't matter.

    "Does that mean she can't change her mind?" he asked. "We're here because (she) said no."

    Lawyers on both sides criticized St. Paul's School and the crude tradition in their closing arguments Thursday.

    Labrie's sentencing is scheduled for October 29.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.