Opening statements are expected on Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of raping a fellow student at one of the United States’ most prestigious preparatory schools.
The suspect, Owen Labrie, 19, of Tunbridge, Vermont, is charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman girl days before he graduated in 2014 from St. Paul’s School.
The prep school counts among its graduates numerous prominent business and political leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The trial is expected to shine a spotlight on the culture of the elite academy, founded in 1856. It is clustered on 2,000 wooded acres in Concord, New Hampshire’s state capital.
Quoting from a police affidavit, the Concord Monitor newspaper reported that Labrie told officers shortly after his arrest that his alleged encounter with the girl was part of a school tradition known as “senior salute,” in which senior boys competed to “score” with the most female students.
A jury of 11 men and three women, with two alternates, was selected on Monday for the trial at the Merrimack Superior Court in Concord.
In a statement on its website, St. Paul’s said: “Allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people that represent our student body, alumni, faculty, and staff.”
The jury is expected on Tuesday to visit the campus of St. Paul’s and the site of the alleged assault.
Labrie has pleaded not guilty to three felony sexual assault charges. Lesser charges include using an “Internet service” – specifically Facebook – to lure the alleged victim.
The three sexual assault charges each carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Labrie had been slated to begin classes at Harvard University last fall, but did not attend, the Concord Monitor said.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Sandra Maler)