Rape-trial suspect: ‘I thought she was having a great time’

Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie raises his hand as he is sworn-in prior to testifying in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015.
Former St. Paul's School student Owen Labrie raises his hand as he is sworn-in prior to testifying in his trial at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, N.H., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. –Charles Krupa/AP

To hear Owen Labrie tell it, the encounter with the younger girl was a fun, mutual, hot and heavy hookup in a secret room on their prep school campus.

There was kissing, and rolling around, and giggling, and grinding, Labrie said. “I thought she was having a great time,’’ the St. Paul’s School graduate said.

She says it was rape.

Labrie, now 19, took the unusual step Wednesday of testifying in his rape trial for the Concord, New Hampshire jury of 11 men and three women.

The girl testified over three days last week, saying she felt “frozen’’ as Labrie, then 18, bit her chest, tugged on her underpants and bra strap, and ignored her saying “no,’’ when he tried to initiate oral sex on her. Boston.com is not naming the girl, who was 15 at the time and is now 16.

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Under questioning from his attorney, J.W. Carney, Labrie described how he first met the girl in person at a camp for student athletes before the school year began. But he knew her name through her older sister, a girl in his grade who he had dated “for like a week’’ at St. Paul’s three years earlier.

Throughout the year, the younger girl and Labrie were flirty and friendly, he said, and his friends knew he had a crush on her.

So with just a few days left in the school year, Labrie sent an email to the girl. Such invitations are known at St. Paul’s as a Senior Salute: graduating seniors send them to younger classmates, inviting them to spend time together before the year is over. Labrie’s classmates have testified it can lead to anything from a walk, to a kiss, to sex.

Jurors have repeatedly heard the emails and Facebook messages that Labrie sent to the girl. But Wednesday morning was the first time they heard Labrie’s words from his own mouth.

“There’s a door here that’s been locked since before you were born,’’ his initial message to her read, in part. “But in a moment of divine intervention the night before last, its hinges swung open in my hand … I want to invite you to climb these hidden steps and bask in the nicest view.’’

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The girl, who had been sitting in the front row of the courtroom with her parents, left the courtroom as discussions turned to their Facebook chats and arranging where they would meet on the night of May 30, 2014. She slid out in front of Labrie’s parents, also in the front row.

Labrie said he just wanted to show the girl a cool view on campus. The first spot he had in mind, the school chapel, wasn’t available, so he brought her to the roof of a campus building instead.

After few minutes, they went down a floor to a mechanical room and started kissing. Kissing turned to their shirts coming off, then their pants, then pressing up against each other on a wall. The moved down to a blanket they’d laid out on the floor.

Did you ever think she wasn’t enjoying herself, Carney asked Labrie several times. No, he replied.

“I thought to myself, ‘We’re going to have sex,’’’ he said. “I was aroused and [she] was aroused and we were fondling each other and holding each other and it seemed like that would come next.’’

But, Labrie said, as he was putting a condom on, he looked down at the girl and reconsidered, thinking, “Maybe we shouldn’t do this.’’

“It wouldn’t have been a good move to have sex with this girl,’’ he said. “It wouldn’t have been a good choice for me to make.’’

They both left the room after a kiss and went their separate ways, he testified.

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Labrie, and his defense attorneys, maintain the two never had sex.

But the girl says she told her friends what happened when she got back to her dorm. Friends of Labrie’s testified this week that he had told them that he had had sex with the girl.

Within four days, the girl told her mother and they went to police, sparking the investigation and indictment against Labrie. He is facing three aggravated felonious sexual assault counts, which carry 20 years in prison. He also faces three misdemeanor sexual assault counts, a felony charge of using a computer to solicit the girl, misdemeanor assault and a count of endangering the welfare of a child.

The age of consent in New Hampshire is 16, meaning the girl could not legally agree to have sex with Labrie.

If convicted of one of the felony rape counts, he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. The misdemeanor sexual assault counts carry a 10-year registration period.

Labrie was a scholarship student at the $50,000-plus school, the son of a landscaper and a public school teacher. He was headed to Harvard, where he hoped to be a divinity student before he was charged last year. Carney says Labrie has spent the last year building a chapel in Vermont.

Labrie will continue testifying Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors will have the opportunity to cross-examine him.

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