Owen Labrie, the former New Hampshire prep school student convicted on lesser charges in a rape trial that exposed a campus tradition of sexual conquest, was sentenced Thursday to a year in prison followed by probation.
"You are a very good liar," state Superior Court Judge Lawrence Smukler said in imposing three concurrent 12-month terms for Labrie's convictions for misdemeanor counts of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, as well as a felony charge of computer-related seduction.
Labrie, now 20, will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He will remain free on bail pending an appeal.
The jury acquitted Labrie on Aug. 28 of more serious felony rape charges, which could have carried up to 20 years in prison. Smukler said he couldn't sentence him on those charges, but he said he couldn't ignore what Labrie did to the victim, who hasn't been identified because she is a juvenile.
"I believe that you are not the angel as portrayed by your counsel" and in letters of support submitted on his behalf, Smukler told Labrie. "But neither are you the devil as portrayed by the prosecution."
The judge called Labrie "a leader, not a follower," adding: "You as a leader certainly took it another level by engaging in sexual penetration of a 15-year-old."
Prosecutors accused Labrie, then 18, of raping a 15-year-old freshman girl in May 2014 at the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord. Prosecutors said he did it as part of a ritual called the "Senior Salute," in which graduating seniors try to bed underclassmen.
During Thursday's sentencing, Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle asked Smukler to sentence Labrie to 3½ to 7 years for the felony count; suspended sentences for the misdemeanors, dependent upon his finishing counseling, treatment and education programs; and placement on the state sex offender registry.
Ruffle read Labrie's vulgar online messages to show "this was a mission" for the popular senior, whom she called "obviously talented," bright and engaging — "also the very same qualities that we often see in sexual predators."
She argued that Labrie wasn't ready to be released into the community and said he could still be charged with falsifying physical evidence.
The victim didn't appear in court, but in a videotaped victim's impact statement, she was heard saying she remains physically and emotionally wounded by the experience.
"What he did to me made me feel like I didn't belong on this planet," she said, her voice quivering, "and that I would be better off dead than to deal every day with what was thrown in my direction after doing the right thing."
That included physical and verbal intimidation that led to "some of the hardest, scariest days of my life" when she returned to campus this fall, she said.
Earlier this term, she said, "I was walking to a car, and the entire boys' hockey team, the boys' varsity hockey team, stood up and stared and pointed at me as I was walking down the street alone."
Labrie's attorney, Jay Carney, had asked the court to reject prison time and instead place Labrie on probation as long as he continues counseling and performs community service.
Wednesday, Labrie's mother, Denise Holland, submitted a letter to the judge asking for probation only, saying Labrie had become despondent and suicidal as "so many years of dedication and hard work dissolve[d] before him."
Labrie had been allowed out on $15,000 bail, and was required to adhere to a nighttime curfew, turn over his passport and register as a sex offender. He can petition to be removed from the registry 15 years after his sentence is completed.