CONCORD, N.H. — The 16-year-old girl sat on the witness stand here, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She tried to speak steadily as she told a jury about the night when a ritual at St. Paul’s — one of the country’s elite boarding schools — turned into what she described as a shocking sexual assault.
It had been days away from graduation last year, the season of a campus rite called the “senior salute,” when older students ask younger ones to join them for a walk, a kiss, or more. The girl, 15 and a freshman at the time, had agreed to follow a suitor, Owen Labrie, then 18, to the rooftop of a campus building to which he had a key.
Then, she said, he took her into a dark maintenance room. When they kissed, she did not object. But soon he began to grope her; he bit her chest too, she said, and tried more than once to remove her underwear.
“I said, ‘No, no, no, keep it up here,’ ” said the girl, signaling above her waist. “I tried to be as polite as possible.”
She described Mr. Labrie “scraping” the inside of her body with his hands. “When he got deeper and deeper I felt a lot of pressure. But other than that I tried to block out the feeling as much as I could,” the girl said. She said Mr. Labrie then penetrated her, with his hands on her shoulders. “It had to be his penis,” said the girl.
Her voice shook as she described the encounter escalating. “I wanted to not cause a conflict,” she said, as she started to cry. “I didn’t know how to deal with it because I’d never been in a situation like this,” she said, adding: “I felt like I had no control.”
The second day of testimony in the trial of Mr. Labrie, who has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts, including three of aggravated felonious sexual assault, brought out both excruciating detail and intense emotion from the young girl at the center of the case as she gave her account of the encounter on May 30, 2014. She said that even as it was happening, she worried about offending Mr. Labrie or drawing ridicule from other students at St. Paul’s.
She spoke for more than 90 minutes, never looking at Mr. Labrie, who sat still as a statue through much of the testimony.
He often seemed to be looking at the table in front of him, holding a pen in his hand, as the jury listened with rapt attention.
The courtroom was packed — standing room only — as Mr. Labrie’s family, the family of the girl, and others strained to hear the testimony.
A loud fan inside the courtroom made it hard to hear the accuser; early on, court officials had to turn it off.
It was all a sign of the growing interest in the case against Mr. Labrie, a former star student who earned a scholarship to St. Paul’s and had been headed to Harvard until the young girl came forward with her accusations.
Mr. Labrie’s lawyers deny that he and the girl had sexual intercourse, and he is expected to take the stand in his own defense. On Monday, J.W. Carney Jr., Mr. Labrie’s lead defense lawyer, argued that their encounter was consensual and more innocent.
He said in his opening statement that the “senior salute” was a longstanding tradition at the school, in which some of the young female students willingly took part.
But the case has cast that tradition, and other student rites, under a harsh light as it explores the culture of sex, gender and entitlement at St. Paul’s — which counts ambassadors, senators and prominent authors among its alumni.
Surrounding the details of the episode, prosecutors have said, is the social context for the crimes of which Mr. Labrie is accused: The senior salute, in which, they have suggested, some boys compete to have sexual encounters with as many people as possible. It is one of many rituals at the school that encourage hierarchy, according to alumni, and Mr. Labrie told the police he had been actively engaged in the tradition, trying to “score” and win.
The accuser said she had been more skeptical of the rite from the start. She said she had initially turned down Mr. Labrie’s invitation, but when he responded with an email partly in French, she wondered if she had been too harsh.
She decided to go with Mr. Labrie for a senior salute, but only if he would keep it a secret.
“What a golden change of heart,” Mr. Labrie wrote in response.
The girl said she had thought that they might kiss, but nothing more. She was thinking “it would be cool” to go to a new place on campus with “one of the most popular boys,” she said.
They made a plan to meet. “It was a beautiful view,” she said, adding that Mr. Labrie wanted to go back inside. He brought her into a machine room, opening the door with a special key that prosecutors said had been passed down from senior class to senior class by boys seeking privacy.
They kissed. Before long, surrounded by industrial noise, she said she was groped, and bitten. “I was feeling violated,” she said.
Crying on the stand here, she described the sex acts she said he performed. “I felt so scared,” she said.
Still, she said she worried about offending him. She was younger. He was older and popular. The senior salute was a St. Paul’s tradition. “I felt so powerless,” she said.
Even afterward, she said she worried about upsetting Mr. Labrie, or drawing others into a turbulent situation.
“I thought, I’m at St. Paul’s right now, this is graduation weekend, I cannot be dramatic about this,” she said.
She added: “I didn’t want to come off as an inexperienced little girl. I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I didn’t want to offend him.”
Accuser in St. Paul’s prep school rape trial says she felt ‘frozen,’ fought to keep clothes on
The girl who accused an older classmate at an elite New England prep school of raping her on campus testified Wednesday that she felt “frozen” during the alleged attack and fought to keep her clothes on.
When Owen Labrie, a graduating senior who has pleaded not guilty to felony rape charges, asked the then 15-year-old to check out a secret spot on campus at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, she agreed. Once there, they enjoyed the fantastic view together from the roof, she said.
But they didn’t spend much time up there. It was wet, she said, and Labrie—who she referred to as one of the most popular boys on campus—ushered her back downstairs to a darkened, noisy mechanical room. The girl would have preferred to stay up there, but she didn’t say anything, she told jurors Wednesday.
She didn’t say anything when he pushed her up against a wall and started kissing her, either. That seemed okay. She’d kissed boys before. She didn’t ask to leave.
“I wanted to be easygoing,” she told the court. “I wanted to not cause a conflict. I didn’t want to come off as bitchy or … I didn’t want to cause any trouble.”
But kissing progressed to groping. Labrie took her shirt off, she said, and tried to grab under her bra. She said she pulled the straps together to keep it on. She touched her left ear, describing how he gnawed on it. She said she winced in pain as he bit her chest.
He tried to pull down her underwear, she said, but she held on. When he put his face between her legs, she pulled his face up, she said.
“I said, ‘No, no, no, no, no. Keep it up here,’” she said. “I tried to be as polite as possible. I even laughed nervously.”
He called her a tease, she said.
She said she closed her eyes when he started digitally penetrating her. When she opened them, she saw his hands beside her head.
“I didn’t know what else I could do,” she said. “I already said no and I’d already moved his face physically. I felt like I was frozen.”
She looked up at the ceiling and waited for it to end, she said. When it did, the two got up, and got dressed, she said. Labrie walked down the stairs first.
As the girl detailed the encounter, Labrie looked down, or away, or scribbled in a yellow notepad. His attorney has said there’s no evidence to show the girl wasn’t willing to participate that night.
The girl, who Boston.com is not naming, testified this morning about her interactions with Labrie, now 19. He is facing multiple rape charges stemming from their encounter – which he says was consensual and she says turned into forcible rape.
Labrie reached out to the girl via email, asking her out as part of a tradition called the Senior Salute. Prosecutors say for Labrie and his friends, it was a contest to see how many underclassmen girls they could “slay” before graduation.
The defense attorney read aloud Facebook messages and emails exchanged between Labrie and the girl that he characterized as evidence that she was a willing participant.
The girls said they were attempts at yet more politeness. She was uncomfortable, she said.
The “hahahas” she punctuated her notes with were moments of nervousness. She told the jury she thought: even he doesn’t know what he did to me.
“Maybe he didn’t see my signs,” she testified. “Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I shouldn’t be the one complaining about this.”
The girl said she was trying to follow Labrie’s script in their written messages.
“I didn’t want to be weak,” she continued. “I wanted control in a situation where I completely lost control.”
The prosecutor says DNA matching Labrie was found in the girl’s underpants. The defense says the two didn’t have penetrative sex, though there was dry humping that may have left DNA behind.
The alleged attack happened on May 30, 2014, a few days before graduation. Defense attorneys will have the opportunity to cross-examine the girl Wednesday afternoon.