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Prosecutors and the defense lawyers sparred during closing arguments Thursday in the rape trial against a former New Hampshire prep school student accused of assaulting a freshman girl last year.
The jurors — three women and nine men — must ultimately weigh whether the accuser, who was 15 during the incident at St. Paul's School in Concord, is telling the truth when she testified that a graduating senior raped her even after she repeatedly said "no."
The trial has been emotionally charged since it began on Aug. 17, with the accuser crying during her testimony and then running out while defendant Owen Labrie, 19, was on the stand Wednesday.
The case has also cast a harsh light on the prestigious boarding school, whose alumni includes Secretary of State John Kerry and former FBI Director Robert Mueller along with a Kennedy and three Vanderbilts.
During his closing statements, defense lawyer Jay Carney accused the faculty of turning a blind eye to the school tradition that allowed the incident to take place, the so-called "Senior Salute" — in which graduating students try to "score" with underclassmen.
Carney painted the alleged victim as a willing participant in the pair's Senior Salute rendezvous, which took place in a secluded attic on campus. He also said she never indicated in subsequent emails and Facebook messages with Labrie that she felt sexually violated.
Labrie had testified that the two only had consensual sexual contact and while he did put on a condom, it never progressed into intercourse.
Carney suggested that Labrie's accuser made up being sexually assaulted only after her older sister found out they had been together — and she didn't want to disappoint her with the truth.
"She had to make a decision whether it was her reputation that was going to go in the toilet or Owen’s," Carney said. "She took the easier choice."
Prosecutor Joseph Cherniske, however, cast Labrie as being manipulative in his pursuit of the alleged victim.
He reminded the jury of the DNA evidence presented during the trial in which there was the presence of Labrie's semen found inside of his accuser's underwear.
Labrie had admitted to boasting to friends that he had sex with his accuser, but testified on Wednesday that he was lying about it because he wanted to look good in front of them.
Cherniske also called Labrie's actions into question when it was revealed during the trial that he had deleted 119 messages from his Facebook page.
Ultimately, despite appearing to be OK with Labrie in emails, the alleged victim made the choice to tell an adult about the incident, Cherniske told the jury — not an easy decision.
"What kid would go through all of this unless it was 100 percent true?" he asked.
Labrie was charged with nine criminal counts, and the felony sexual assault charges each carry up to 20 years in prison.
The jury ended deliberations just before 4 p.m. and will resume again Friday morning.