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Labrie's attorney argues use of internal St. Paul's email system was not a violation

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 13. 2016 7:22PM


CONCORD — Owen Labrie’s attorney is challenging whether emails sent through the St. Paul’s School internal network violate the state law against using a computer to entice a minor.

Labrie is seeking a new trial, arguing his defense attorneys provided ineffective counsel when he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman and unlawful use of a computer while he was a senior.

Attorney Robin Melone filed motions this week introducing new arguments against the computer offense, maintaining that email conversations between Labrie and his accuser sent through their St. Paul’s accounts never left the school’s internal intranet service.

“The computer offense statute applies only when a person has utilized a ‘computer on-line, internet service or local bulletin board service,’” Melone wrote, quoting NH RSA 649 B:4. “Thus by its plain language, the computer offense statute excludes the use of locally hosted intranet servers.”

Melone presented the argument in a supplement to Labrie’s appeal she filed Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court. The original appeal filed in April also challenges Labrie’s conviction on the computer offense on other grounds, but the position that the conversations were “intranet” rather than via the internet is new.

“The e-mails in question in this case were sent from one SPS e-mail address to another SPS e-mail address,” Melone wrote. “Such e-mails would not have traveled outside of a locally hosted intranet server physically located on the SPS campus — and thus could not have formed the basis of the felony conviction against Mr. Labrie.”

The new motions include an affidavit describing a conversation attorneys for Labrie had with a St. Paul’s information technology employee and lawyers for the prep school on May 24. The IT worker explained that email sent from a laptop via St. Paul’s wireless network would have likely remained on the local intranet server. Emails sent from a cellphone, he said, were more likely to have been sent by the phone carrier via the external internet.

A judge will ultimately decide on the arguments and details that have remained in dispute even after Labrie’s conviction in August, 2015.

Labrie was 18 when he was accused of sexually assaulting a freshman student in 2014 during a spring dating ritual known as the “Senior Salute.” A jury acquitted him of aggravated felonious sexual assault, but convicted him on three misdemeanor sexual assault charges.

Labrie has maintained his innocence and is out on bail pending the appeal.

A hearing on the motion for a new trial is set for Feb. 21.

Courts Manchester

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