Prosecutor claims St. Paul’s rape suspect violated bail conditions with fundraising letter

Last modified: 3/14/2015 5:05:58 PM
A prosecutor in the St. Paul’s School rape case is claiming that Owen Labrie violated his bail conditions by soliciting money last month from students and faculty members.

In a filing in Merrimack County Superior Court, Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle said the 2014 graduate distributed the letter electronically “via third person(s).” In it, Labrie says he was falsely accused, and has “been doing everything in my power to see that the truth is heard,” according to a copy attached to the filing.

“This letter is not easy for me to write,” he wrote. “Trying to raise this sum of money at the age of nineteen is a daunting task, but my family and I are desperately out of time and resources.”

The case is set for trial in May, but it could be delayed. Labrie’s attorney, Michael Ramsdell, asked last month to withdraw, saying Labrie “no longer wishes” that he represent him. Judge Larry Smukler has granted the request, pending appearance of a new attorney, which has yet to happen.

Labrie was arrested in July and accused of sexually assaulting an underclassman on campus two days before graduation. He is currently out on $15,000 personal recognizance. Ruffle has asked that bail be reset to $50,000 cash. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

As part of his release, Labrie is prohibited from contacting the school, the victim or her family, and from discussing the case with any potential witnesses. Ruffle said the letter “has been widely disseminated throughout the campus community and beyond, ultimately reaching the victim’s family.” The girl no longer attends St. Paul’s.

Labrie’s message is dated Feb. 19 and addressed to “All Those Kind Enough to Read My Letter.” In it, he describes himself as an accomplished honors student “from a small town in rural Vermont.” He said he attended the school on full scholarship, and has been “working three jobs to pay for my local defense.”

Labrie was set to study theology at Harvard last fall, and said he still plans to, “assuming the truth prevails before a jury.”

“I am looking to raise through loans or grants the $90,000 needed to retain good counsel for a fair trial,” he wrote.

Ruffle argued that the move could weaken her case.

“It is most likely that potential witnesses have either received the letter, or are aware of its contents, creating a difficult or possibly hostile environment where student witnesses may feel forced to ‘choose sides’ during the course of this litigation,” she wrote in the filing.

Ramsdell is the second defense attorney to file a withdrawal. Jim Moir recused himself in November, citing a breakdown in communication with Labrie. Labrie was scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing that month, and had reportedly been nearing an agreement with prosecutors.

Labrie was also receiving advice from an out-of-state attorney, Gordon Walker, before Ramsdell’s appointment.

Labrie is accused of bringing the girl, a freshman, to a secluded area on campus May 30 and forcing himself on her. Investigators believe he was taking part in an annual school tradition in which seniors compete to have sex with underclassmen.

Correction: An earlier version misstated that Labrie planned to attend Harvard Divinity School last fall. He planned to study theology at Harvard and later apply to the divinity school.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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