iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Lawyers for Owen Labrie, the former prep school student who was convicted of sexually assaulting a classmate, have requested a new trial on the grounds that Labrie’s conviction under a state computer crime law should be thrown out.
Labrie, 20, was found guilty in August 2015 of a felony charge of using a computer to lure an underage female schoolmate at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, into a sexual encounter but acquitted of felony sexual assault. He was also convicted of three misdemeanor sexual assault charges and one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment and sentenced to one year in jail.
Labrie’s attorneys argue that Labrie contacted his then-15-year-old accuser, Chessy Prout, on a school email system, or intranet, that was limited to campus servers and therefore may not be covered under state law that specifies internet service, but not intranet, according to a court petition obtained by ABC News. Prout made her identity public on Aug. 30 during a national TV appearance.
Labrie spent two months incarcerated but is now out on bail, and must wear a monitoring bracelet while he appeals his conviction. He appeared before a New Hampshire judge on Oct. 5 for a hearing to determine if he was represented adequately during his trial, according to local ABC affiliate WMUR-TV.
Labrie’s lawyers are now arguing that his trial lawyers should have pursued the intranet vs. internet distinction, according to court documents.
“Failure to investigate the email communication relied upon by the State to convict Mr. Labrie of a serious felony charge in the face of evidence that such communication would not qualify as one utilizing an ‘on-line’ service was a catastrophic failure by trial counsel,” according to the court filing.
Matthew Cooper, who reported on this new court filing for Newsweek, told ABC News that Labrie’s case is a larger issue of teens and computer crimes.
“It’s the intersection of law and computers that is so baffling for so many families and police and prosecutors, what happens when those things cross paths,” Cooper told ABC News. “These laws were really aimed at adult internet stalkers, not so much 18-year-olds going after 15-year-olds, and so the law is kind of complicated and probably isn’t being used as intended, and in this case it’s written in a fairly … haphazard way.”
“The real issue is how he used his computer and that’s not going to be the last time courts are going to look at this,” Cooper said of Labrie.
After graduating from St. Paul’s, one of the country’s most prestigious prep schools, Labrie, who now lives with his family in Vermont, had intended to attend Harvard University. The Ivy League school rescinded its offer after he was accused of sexual assault.
The next hearing for Labrie’s appeal is scheduled for February 2017.
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