Prosecutors claim St. Paul’s student shared list of potential hookups before alleged assault

Last modified: 8/18/2015 12:16:38 AM
Prosecutors in the St. Paul’s rape case began outlining on Monday the annual competition they claim propelled a graduating senior to force sex onto a 15-year-old student last year, saying he and friends shared lists with each other of potential conquests, used a rating system based in part on attractiveness and referred to their encounters with terms like “slaying.”

They also provided a judge with the list reportedly created by the senior, Owen Labrie, and noted that the alleged victim is the only one whose name appears in all capital letters.

“We consider that to be relevant, your honor,” said Deputy County Attorney Catherine Ruffle. “Highly, in this case.”

With the trial set to open Tuesday in Concord, attorneys for both sides spent Monday lumbering through a slew of last-minute court motions, on everything from what evidence is admissible about the students’ past sexual experiences (none) to whether prosecutors can discuss the secret keys Labrie used to access the area where the assault allegedly occurred (maybe) and whether the alleged victim can even be called “the alleged victim” (it will depend).

Labrie, 19, of Tunbridge, Vt., is accused of sexually assaulting the then-freshman in an off-limits campus room two days before graduation. The girl has said the encounter began agreeably, but that she told Labrie to stop when it turned sexual. Labrie has said the girl was the actual aggressor and that he did stop, after having a moment of “divine inspiration,” according to a police affidavit.

Defense attorneys had asked that Labrie’s list be excluded from trial, as it refers to other girls and could prejudice jurors. But prosecutors and Judge Larry Smukler of Merrimack County Superior Court countered that it was relevant, as it could provide context for why the encounter might have occurred.

“We do not want to leave the jury with an impression that this was a sudden, spontaneous occurrence, that all the sudden the defendant decided to ask the alleged victim to join him randomly,” Ruffle said. A copy of the list has not yet been made public.

Ruffle reasserted Monday that Labrie’s interaction with the girl was part of a notorious school ritual known as “senior salute,” wherein graduating students, both male and female, attempt to have sexual contact with younger students. She said Labrie and close fellow seniors shared their lists and helped each other craft “invitations” for the girls on them, and that they jokingly referred to the months of April and May, when the encounters occurred, as “Slaypril and Slay.”

“This is a sort of one last ditch to do whatever they’re going to do on campus,” Ruffle said. She later added that Labrie had obtained the keys from older students who had used the space, a secluded maintenance area in the Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science, for similar purposes.

According to the police affidavit, Labrie admitted to investigators last summer that he participated in the ritual, but in a less sexual way – taking girls for walks, for one, or kissing and showing them romantic views. He denied personally using a point system to rate encounters.

Ruffle noted Monday that scoring might have been part of the reason Labrie contacted the girl in the first place, as he had reportedly engaged in a sexual encounter with one of her relatives, who was also a student, increasing the point-value of the encounter.

Earlier in the day, lawyers selected a panel of 14 jurors – 11 men and three women – from a pool of about 60. They are scheduled to hear opening statements Tuesday morning, followed by a tour of the Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science, where the assault allegedly took place.

The state plans to call dozens of witnesses, including the alleged victim, now 16, as well as school employees. St. Paul’s has said little about the case publicly since Labrie’s arrest last July. Former state attorney general Michael Delaney, who now represents the prestigious boarding school, was present in court throughout Monday’s proceedings. The school’s rector, Michael Hirschfield, was also in the courthouse.

The defense, headed by prestigious Boston attorney Jay Carney, has not indicated whether Labrie will testify on his behalf. Labrie has displayed little outward emotion in court. He sat quietly throughout Monday’s proceedings, at times whispering to his attorney, at others scribbling down notes and running his fingers through his hair.

A student-athlete with a sterling academic record, Labrie had planned to attend Harvard last fall and go on to study theology. He fired two local attorneys before hiring Carney, famed for his defense of Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, through an unsanctioned fundraising campaign involving alumni and parents of students. He has been out on bail since his arrest.

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

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