August 20, 2015 / 11:07 AM / 4 years ago

Alleged victim in U.S. prep school rape trial 'traumatized'

CONCORD, N.H. (Reuters) - A teenager broke down in tears under intense questioning on Thursday about charges she was raped last year by a popular classmate at a New Hampshire prep school in a trial that has put a harsh spotlight on the elite institution’s traditions.

A sign marks the entrance to St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, August 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

“I was raped. I was violated in so many ways,” the teen said during the third day of 19-year-old Owen Labrie’s trial on charges including raping a person under the age of 16, the legal age of consent in New Hampshire.

Central to the trial has been a long-standing tradition among students at St. Paul’s School known as “senior salute”: an invitation from graduating seniors to younger students to get together, often for sexual purposes.

The school - whose alumni include powerful U.S. business and political leaders, including Secretary of State John Kerry - has said the charges do not reflect its culture.

The teen, who was 15 at the time of the attack and is now 16, has testified that when she accepted Labrie’s invitation, she expected to kiss, but that he became aggressive and forced himself on her.

Labrie has pleaded not guilty to three felony sexual assault charges, which each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The school’s nurse, Mary Marcelli, testified that the teen had come to her office two days after the incident to request the morning-after contraceptive pill. In response to mandatory questions, the teen said that her encounter had been “consensual” but also appeared “anxious” and “teary-eyed,” Marcelli testified.

Defense attorney J.W. Carney, a well-known Boston lawyer whose clients have included mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, questioned the alleged victim repeatedly on inconsistencies between her testimony on Wednesday and what she had said in interviews with police shortly after the May 2014 incident.

“I’m sorry I was cloudy because I was traumatized,” the teen said.

Carney says the teen and Labrie had a consensual encounter that did not include sexual intercourse, following a friendly and sometimes flirtatious series of emails in which they discussed keeping the encounter secret.

The defense attorney pushed the teen to answer why she had told a detective she laughed at times during the encounter.

“Did you ever tell Owen Labrie if you’re laughing during the encounter, it doesn’t mean what to the rest of the world it means?” Carney asked. The teen explained it had been nervous laughter, ignoring Carney’s request for a “yes” or “no” answer.

“A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer would not do that justice,” she said.

Also called to the stand on Thursday were the teen’s mother, an emergency room nurse, and a doctor who examined the teen, as well as one of the teen’s closest friends.

The friend was questioned about statements she made to a detective early in the investigation that the accuser was willing to engage in certain sex acts with Labrie short of intercourse.

“She was talking about what might happen, and the furthest she would let it go,” said the friend, who like the accuser is a minor. The judge in the case has ordered that the names of minors testifying not be made public.

The jury, consisting of 11 men and three women, will reconvene next week, when Labrie is expected to take the stand.

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao

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