Accuser in St. Paul’s prep school rape trial says she felt ‘frozen,’ fought to keep clothes on

Owen Labrie looked around the courtroom in Merrimack County Superior Court, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Concord, N.H.
Owen Labrie looked around the courtroom in Merrimack County Superior Court, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Concord, N.H. –Jim Cole / AP

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, 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 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.

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She didn’t say anything when he pushed her up against a wall and started kissing her, either. That seemed OK. 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. On the stand, 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.

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“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 is no evidence that the girl wasn’t willing to participate that night, the Friday of St. Paul’s graduation weekend, May 30, 2014. Labrie will take the stand in his own defense later in the trial.

The girl, who Boston.com is not naming, testified this morning about her interactions with Labrie, now 19 and graduated from St. Paul. He is facing multiple rape charges stemming from their encounter – which he says was consensual and she says turned into forcible rape.

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.

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. Labrie’s defense attorney, J.W. Carney, says it’s a longstanding ritual that younger girls where honored to be chosen for.

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In fact, Carney said during his cross-examination of the girl, she chatted with her best friend about her “expectations’’ that night. Carney read aloud from a transcript of the best friend’s interview with Concord police.

“Did you tell [her] that your expectations were, ‘Like I’ll probably let him finger me and like at most I’ll blow him’?’’ Carney asked the girl.

She vehemently denied it.

“It wasn’t how I was feeling when he was doing that to me,’’ she said.

In the days after the incident, the girl busied herself with graduation weekend activities and tried to avoid thinking about what happened, she said. She wasn’t even sure if what had happened was rape, she said. She just knew it felt awful and she didn’t want it.

On Sunday morning, two days after the encounter, she asked a nurse for Plan B. She told the nurse, through tears, that it was consensual sex.

“I didn’t want to cause any trouble,’’ she said. “I thought it was so much easier to say it was (consensual) at that point.’’

A comment on Facebook on June 3 broke her. She didn’t tell the court what the comment said, but it led to her advisor comforting her and telling her to call her mom. She did, and she and her mom went to Concord Hospital the next day for a rape kit.

The girl will take the stand again Thursday for her third day of questioning.