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St. Paul’s School: Rape Trial Targets Sexual Culture at Elite New Hampshire Campus

Rape trial spotlights sexual culture at elite St. Paul’s prep school 5:05

A former student at an elite New Hampshire prep school went on trial Monday on charges he raped a 15-year-old girl on campus. But it's not just the defendant who's facing judgment.

The rape allegedly occurred at the prestigious St. Paul's School, whose alumni include Secretary of State John Kerry, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau and several members of Congress. The trial is expected to cast a spotlight on unsavory aspects of the boarding school's on-campus sexual culture — including accusations of graduating boys' competitive pursuit of younger students.

The defendant, 19-year-old Owen Labrie, is accused of raping the freshman girl on the roof of one of the Episcopalian school's buildings in May 2014, just before he graduated. He has been charged with three counts of aggravated felony sex assault, four counts of misdemeanor sex assault, endangering the welfare of a child and using a computer to lure her to meet him via email and Facebook.

Labrie has pleaded not guilty and said that he never had sexual intercourse with his accuser. A jury of three women and 11 men was selected Monday; testimony will begin Tuesday.

Prosecutors are expected to call current and former students to testify about the sexual environment at the school.

The police investigation began after the alleged victim's mother called a school counselor, who in turn contacted the Concord, New Hampshire, police, court documents show. The counselor spoke to a detective, who summarized the conversation in an application to search Labrie's email and Facebook messages.

The counselor told the detective of "a horrible tradition at the boarding school called the ‘senior salute’ in which a senior emails a younger student regarding a ‘conquest’ before they graduate."

Labrie, a housing dorm prefect who said he planned to become a minister, also told police about the tradition, according to court documents detailing his interviews with police. He described "sexual scoreboards" in which boys shared their triumphs on a dorm wall and online.

But Labrie denied that "senior salute" had anything to do with his rooftop encounter with the girl. He told the detective that there was "no greater culture at play."

Boarding school student faces rape charges in ‘Senior Salute’ 0:25

His accuser, however, told the detective that she understood that Labrie had sought her out as part of "senior salute." She said she thought the meeting would involve "just a hook up" — kissing and making out — and no sex. That's how the liaison began, the girl said. But Labrie then became "kind of aggressive" and despite her saying "no" to his advances, he continued, she said.

Labrie said that he put on a condom, but said that once he did, he experienced a "moment of divine inspiration" and stopped himself from going any farther.

In a statement posted to the St. Paul's website on Monday, the school's rector, Michael Hirschfeld, said the "allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people that represent our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff."

He also pointed out that the allegations were "not proven facts, and the judicial system will weigh them and determine how this case is ultimately resolved." He promised that the school would emerge from the case "stronger, united, and committed, as always, to ensuring our students' safety and wellbeing."