CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the 2015 conviction of a prep school graduate for using a computer to lure an underage student for sex, requiring him to register as a sex offender for life.
Then 18-year-old Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, was acquitted of raping the 15-year-old freshman at St. Paul's School in Concord. But jurors convicted him of the felony computer charge and several misdemeanors.
The computer law says no one shall knowingly use a computer online service "to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child" to commit sexual assault.
Labrie's lawyer, Jaye Rancourt, said prosecutors failed to prove Labrie's emails and Facebook messages to the girl showed he intended to have sex with her. The state argued Labrie's intentions were clear since he was reaching out as part of a tradition called "Senior Salute," a competition among upperclassmen seeking to have sex with younger students.
Rancourt also said the statute was meant to be used to target sexual predators and pedophiles combing the internet, and not in a case like this one.
The court, in a 3-0 opinion, found Rancourt's interpretation of the law narrow. It said Labrie's actions prior to, during and after his encounter with the girl support the jury's finding of the "requisite intent" at the time he wrote to her.
Rancourt said in a statement she was disappointed with the decision and may ask the court to reconsider it. She said the law, as interpreted by the court, "can ensnare any senior in high school who communicates through their phone, tablet or laptop with a freshman in high school and invites them on a date.
"I've heard from numerous legislators since Owen's conviction who have assured me that this was not the intention of the legislature at the time the law was passed," she wrote.
Labrie has a second appeal pending. It asks for a new trial due to ineffective counsel. The state supreme court is scheduled to hear arguments on Nov. 28.
Alex and Susan Prout, the parents of the girl, Chessy Prout, said they are pleased with the ruling.
"The past four years in this process have been long and grueling for our daughter and our family, and we sincerely hope the process is nearing an end," they said in a statement. "We applaud our daughter's courage in shattering the silence and persisting through a long and difficult fight for justice."
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, as Prout has done.
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WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports