Too Late For Labrie

What are the chances that you run into a feminist reporter on a train?  Really good, if you’re Owen Labrie.  Labrie became the poster boy for rich kid, entitled high school rape, even though he was acquitted of rape.  He was sentenced to a year in jail for using a computer in the course of seducing a 15-year-old unnamed female student to engage in consensual sex.

When Labrie did it, it was demonized as the “Senior Salute” at St. Paul’s, a boarding school for the wealthy.  Before you hate Labrie for having parents with money, remember that the 15-year-old’s parents weren’t on food stamps either.

Pending appeal, Labrie was free on $15,000 bail. Not that his parents couldn’t afford to bail the then-Harvard student out, but Judge Larry Smuckler must have figured that without this number, Labrie would flee. And if he was so inclined to flee, $15,000 was enough to prevent it.  But Smuckler, in his judicial wisdom, also imposed conditions on bail pending appeal, one of which was a 5 p.m. curfew. This was his undoing.

When a reporter on a train in Boston spotted a former student of an elite New Hampshire prep school who was free on bail after a high-profile rape trial last year, she couldn’t resist peppering him with questions.

And Labrie, for reasons that are hard to fathom aside from his being a kid, didn’t tell the reporter to get lost, but answered her questions.  And who was this reporter?

The defendant, Owen Labrie, 19, greeted her warmly and answered all of her questions, the reporter, Susan Zalkind, posted on Twitter and later wrote for Vice.

Zalkind was not a fan of Labrie’s.

What sparked my own interest in the case was that a familiar phenomenon—the objectification of young women—was, at St. Paul’s, said to be ritualized. The “Senior Salute” was basically a game where graduating seniors asked underclass students to meet for a romantic encounter, anything from a walk to sex. They would then tally their conquests, with victors in the conquest passing around a ceremonial mask, according to prosecutors. But elaborate rich kid sex games aside, it was also a case that highlighted the basic difficulties of proving or disproving acquaintance rape, and came at a time when sexual assault on school campuses was receiving increased attention.

And she didn’t like him any better after their train ride.

That’s what ultimately makes Labrie come off as pathological: his own arrogance.

While there was nothing in Zalkind’s post or twits to suggest that Labrie was doing anything wrong, it put his name back on the front burner, and put a target on his head.

Law enforcement officials began to suspect that Mr. Labrie was breaking the curfew after a reporter, Susan Zalkind, spotted him last month on a train in Boston.

“In the last few weeks he’s been slowly re-entering society he tells me,” Ms. Zalkind said on Twitter on Feb. 29. “He’s been traveling to Cambridge frequently.”

And it would appear so.

In an objection submitted to the court, Mr. Labrie’s lawyer, Jaye Rancourt, admitted that Mr. Labrie violated his curfew but said he had done so to attend classes related to online-education courses and to meet with his trial lawyers, J.W. Carney and Sam Zaganjori, in Boston.

Ms. Rancourt described the curfew as excessive, writing that it had prevented her client “from obtaining gainful employment, attending school or otherwise making productive use of his time.”

The concession, that Labrie violated the terms of his bail, suggests that there wasn’t really an issue of fact at stake. And the justification comes off as a bit disingenuous.  The curfew may have been ridiculous, and likely unduly burdensome, but that’s an argument against it, not an excuse for violating it.

On the other hand, rarely will a judge revoke bail based on an insignificant violation of the terms, particularly when, as here, there are benign explanations for why it happened.  It’s not like he was out beyond his 5 p.m. curfew because he was raping 15 year olds, after all.

But Smuckler didn’t care. Violated? Officer, take charge.  And in went Labrie.

There is a reason why defendants sentenced to a jail term of a year are released on bail pending appeal.  It takes a while, sometimes a year or more, before an appeal is perfected, heard, decided.  If the defendant is jailed upon sentence, and his conviction is later reversed, he’s already done his time.

Upon reversal, that’s time he didn’t owe, except it’s already been paid.  There is no refund.  A young man can never get that year of his life back should an appellate court determine that he was wrongfully convicted or excessively sentenced.  Sorry, kid.  And he doesn’t even get to commit another crime for free, having the year credited to whatever time he might otherwise owe. It’s gone.

Does Judge Smuckler care? Does Zalkind care, or anybody who has ever cried sad tears at Slate XX over the horrors of the patriarchy?  Are you [ableist slur]?  Whether Owen Labrie deserved a sentence of a year for being a pawn in the gender wars is a question that is only of concern for those who care about defendants in criminal prosecutions in the vilification of sex.

Some will suffer no cognitive dissonance from his being jailed before his appeal is heard, even though they would feel differently if he sold drugs or murdered someone.  That’s how gender politics intersects with criminal law, and if you can’t muster the capacity to apply the same considerations for Labrie that you would for a defendant charged with a non-gender-related offense, then you have no business in the well.




17 thoughts on “Too Late For Labrie

  1. Eliot clingman

    I see no reasonable connection between a 5pm curfew and ensuring that Mr. Labrie appear at the appeal, and subsequent jailing were he to lose. The judge is a jerk both to impose the arbitrary condition, and to revoke bail because of its violation. I am shocked, shocked that a judge….

    1. SHG Post author

      The judge is authorized to impose terms to prevent a defendant from committing any crimes while out on bail. How the 5 pm curfew relates to any legitimate purpose, however, is unclear. I can make no sense of it.

    2. Simon Elliott

      Agreed. But Labrie could have petitioned the court for specific modifications, that allow him to go to classes or meet with his lawyer. And perhaps if he was a few minutes late it would not have been a problem. But you don’t get to thumb your nose at a judge. Especially when the entire case smacked of entitlement, and the judge is being scrutinized for whether he was too lenient, a judge is not going to go too far out on a limb to shelter this kid.

      1. SHG Post author

        Meh. Smuckler could have given Labrie a stern warning to never do it again, and that would have pacified any complaints. Missing a 5 p.m. curfew, without any other alleged harm, just isn’t a big deal. Even in a case as controversial as this.

  2. Gloria Wolk

    And it never occurred to his lawyers to ask the judge to revise the crippling time so that he could have full time, not part-time gainful employment? I’ve seen this with others on probation. I see this as a set up. If the judge is not educated by the attorneys, why blame the judge?

  3. Bruce Godfrey

    Might have expected the judge to lock him up for an attitude adjustment night and then entertain a motion to reconsider bail, releasing him 9 AM next day.

    Would not shock me if this patrician youth paid for the sins of patrician youth Ethan Couch, who presented an explicit “affluenza” defense in TX and then absconded to Mexico.

    1. SHG Post author

      Then, perhaps you are easily shocked. The two cases have nothing comparable other than young men of well to do families.

      1. Bruce Godfrey

        I am not easily shocked, my point QED. Agreed that on the merits the cases have nothing to do with each other; referring to bench political cravenness, not to merit.

  4. LES

    Although most of his classmates at St. Paul’s are from wealthy families, Labrie is not. He attended St Paul’s on a full scholarship, and his now rescinded offer from Harvard also included a full scholarship.

    1. SHG Post author

      That not only removes a primary reasons for people to be biased against Labrie (the inherent antagonism toward entitled kids from wealthy families), but makes the misery imposed on him that much more tragic and outrageous.

  5. Jeff Field

    Why do so many assume Owen Labrie is priviledged and wealthy? He is neither. He lives with his mother in Tunbridge Vermont and attended St Pauls on scholarship.

    1. SHG Post author

      Whether he is privileged and wealthy shouldn’t have anything to do with it, but going to St. Paul’s, it’s assumed. As you note, he’s not. Either way, this was wrong.

  6. Pingback: Owen Labrie Will Not Go Down Quietly; Nor Should He | Simple Justice

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