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Former prep school student convicted of sex charges

Owen Labrie talks with one of his attorneys Jaye Rancourt, right, as his parents Denise Holland and Cannon Labrie talk in the lobby as they wait outside the courtroom for the verdict in his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 in Concord, N.H. (Geoff Forester/The Concord Monitor via AP) 

LYNNE TUOHY, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A graduate of an exclusive New England prep school was cleared of forcible rape but convicted of lesser sex offenses Friday against a 15-year-old freshman girl in a case that exposed a campus tradition in which seniors competed to see how many younger students they could sleep with.

A jury of nine men and three women took eight hours to reach its verdict in the case against 19-year-old Owen Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, who was accused of forcing himself on the girl in a dark and noisy mechanical room at St. Paul's School in Concord two days before he graduated in 2014.

Labrie, who was bound for Harvard and planned to take divinity classes before his arrest put everything on hold, could get as much as 11 years in prison at sentencing Oct. 29. He will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

He wept upon hearing the verdict, and then, as his lawyers conferred with the judge, sat alone at the defense table, shaking his head slightly and looking up at the ceiling. His mother sobbed into a tissue. His accuser appeared stoic and huddled with members of her family in the courtroom.

The young man was acquitted of the most serious charges against him — three counts of felony rape, each punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. But he was found guilty of three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, using a computer to lure a minor for sex, and child endangerment.

Essentially, the jury by its verdicts signaled it didn't believe Labrie's assertion that there was no intercourse, but it also didn't believe her contention that it was against her will. For that, it found Labrie guilty of statutory rape, because she was underage and could not legally consent to sex.

"Today, a measure of justice has been served for victims of sexual violence," the girl's family said in a statement. The family said the conviction forces Labrie to "take ownership for his actions and gives him the opportunity to reflect upon the harm he has caused."

But the family added: "We still feel betrayed that St. Paul's School allowed and fostered a toxic culture that left our daughter and other students at risk to sexual violence. We trusted the school to protect her and it failed us."

The scandal cast a harsh light on the 159-year-old boarding school that has long been a training ground for politicians, Nobel laureates, corporate executives and other members of the country's elite.

Prosecutors said the rape was part of Senior Salute, which Labrie described to detectives as a competition in which graduating seniors tried to have sex with underclassmen and kept score on a wall behind a set of washing machines.

After the verdict, St. Paul's rector, Michael G. Hirschfeld, commended "the remarkable moral courage and strength demonstrated by the young woman who has suffered through this nightmare," and said the prep school is committed to teaching its students to act honorably.

Labrie, an aspiring minister, testified that he and the girl made out, but he said he stopped short of intercourse because he suddenly decided "it wouldn't have been a good choice for me." A detective quoted him as saying he had a moment of "divine inspiration" as he was about to put on a condom.

In his testimony, Labrie acknowledged bragging to friends that he had intercourse with the girl, but he said that was a lie told to impress them. He also admitted deleting 119 Facebook messages, including one in which he boasted that he "pulled every trick in the book" to have sex with her.

In graphic and sometimes tearful testimony, the girl, now 16, said she willingly went with Labrie to the rooftop of an academic building after he invited her to take part in Senior Salute, a tradition she said she knew about. But she said she was prepared for kissing at most.

She said Labrie soon become aggressive and she told him, "No, no, no" as he moved his face toward her crotch. She said he eventually penetrated her, and she felt "frozen" — incapable of moving or reacting.

"I tried to block out the feeling as much as I could," she said. "I didn't want to believe this was happening to me."

Under cross-examination, she said she helped Labrie remove her shirt and pants. When questioned about breezy email and Facebook exchanges that she had with Labrie in the hours afterward, she explained that she kept the conversation light because she was trying to find out whether he had worn a condom.

Alumni of St. Paul's include Secretary of State John Kerry, who graduated in 1962 alongside former FBI Director Robert Mueller. "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau also attended the school, as did at least 13 U.S. ambassadors, three Pulitzer Prize winners, actor Judd Nelson and sons of the Astor and Kennedy families. Students pay $53,810 a year in tuition, room and board.

After Labrie's arrest, school officials said they would expel anyone participating "in any game, 'tradition,' or practice of sexual solicitation or sexual conquest under any name" and throw out those possessing keys or access cards they aren't entitled to. Labrie was said to have used a key that was shared among seniors to get to restricted areas.

The school, which first admitted girls in 1971 and has about 530 students, also brought in experts to discuss topics including substance abuse, harassment and building healthy relationships.

Labrie was captain of the soccer team and said he attended the school on full scholarship. Defense attorney J.W. Carney told the jury that St. Paul's treated Labrie "shabbily" by taking away an award he received for character and devotion to the school and not adding his name to the wall of all graduates.

Union requests faster resolution to Klamath County Sheriff investigation
(MGN Online Photo)

By KTVL Staff/KTVL.com

KLAMATH COUNTY, Ore.-- A lawyer representing the Klamath County Peace Officers' Association sent a letter Friday to Oregon's Attorney General asking for a speedy resolution into the investigation of criminal allegations against Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah.

The letter says that the deputies placed on leave were interviewed by the Department of Justice as early as April of 2015 about allegations of excessive use of force and misconduct by the sheriff.

The letter asks the Department of Justice to move quickly "for the safety of the deputies and the citizens of Klamath County."

Earlier this week, the Klamath County Board of Commissioners asked Sheriff Skrah to place himself on leave so that the seven deputies could return to work, and Sheriff Skrah has refused.

Previous stories: Klamath County Budget Breakdown
Klamath Deputies Requested Leave Due To Alleged Retaliation, Harassment
Attorney General Probes Klamath County Sheriff's Office
Klamath County Sheriff's Deputies Placed On Leave

State may approve up to $15-hour wages for home-care workers
(MGN Online Photo)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Home-care workers and the state will likely approve a contract that makes $15-per-hour wages possible.

The Service Employees Union International Local 503 announced that a tentative agreement had been reached with the state to increase wages to $14.50 per hour by February 2017.

An additional training certification would earn workers another 50 cents per hour starting in 2017.

State retirement options are also part of the contract, which bargaining team member Alice Redding says is a historic first for home-care workers. The contract also includes paid time off.

Selected union members will vote on ratifying the contract soon.

The union is facing a class action lawsuit filed by the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Washington state that says union membership should not be required.

Firefighters at Oregon wildfire prepare for windy weather
(MGN Online Photo)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- Structural fire crews have returned to protect homes on a wildfire in eastern Oregon as National Guard and other fire crews worked to reinforce lines against winds forecast to be gusting up to 40 mph.

The Canyon Creek fire complex covered 135 square miles Friday. It is located south of John Day mostly on the Malheur National Forest.  

Spokeswoman Stefanie Gatchell says the cold front bringing rain to western Oregon this weekend will bring thunderstorms and gusty winds to the fire, so crews are working to reinforce their lines.

Smoke made air quality very unhealthy in John Day, but was moderate to good across most of the state.

Meanwhile, the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park reopened Friday after being closed due to a nearby wildfire.

Kapowsin Meats recalls pork from Washington, Oregon, Alaska
(MGN Online Photo)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) -- Graham-based Kapowsin Meats is recalling more than 520,000 pounds of pork shipped to Washington, Oregon and Alaska after food inspectors found that it may be contaminated with salmonella.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall after sampling at Kapowsin Meat's facility. Salmonella was found in whole hogs for barbecue, associated pork produces and around the business. The company has voluntarily suspended work.

The pork was produced between April 18 and Aug. 26. The recalled products include boxed or bags whole hogs for barbecue, various pork offal products, pork blood and pork trim.

The state Department of Health notified the USDA of salmonella-related illnesses in July. Those illnesses were linked to pork from Kapowsin.

Oregon hiring 11 recreational marijuana inspectors
(MGN Online Photo)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is recruiting 11 marijuana compliance specialists in preparation for the Oct. 1 rollout of recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana dispensaries will begin selling marijuana products to consumers in October and the state will begin accepting permits applications for marijuana businesses Jan. 4.

Compliance specialists will investigate businesses and production facilities, as well as organize decoy operations where minors attempt to buy marijuana. The new positons pay between $3,610 and $5,277 a month. Three of the 11 positions are temporary.

An OLCC spokesman says alcohol regulatory specialists will also be trained for marijuana regulations, but because they do not know how many permit applications they will receive in January it's better to hire more inspectors than less.

Texas PTA's one-of-a-kind fundraising sheet strikes a familiar chord with parents
Photo courtesy of Dee Wise Heinz

By Nia Towne/CNYCentral.com

A Texas middle school PTA chose to take a more hands-off approach to fundraising this year.

The PTA sent students home with a flyer explaining the different options to show support for the school, that sheet has since gone viral after one mom shared it to Facebook.

When Dee Wise Heinz's daughter brought the sheet home, she thought "a fundraiser already? But after reading it, my husband and I got such a chuckle out of it and we thought it was so refreshing," the mother of three said in an interview with ABC News.

The letter asks for monetary donations instead of the traditional volunteer hours, baked goods and walk-a-thons.

Here are a few of the options:

-- "I do not want to hit up friends, family and co-workers, so here is the money I would have spent buying wrapping paper" is the $25 donation

-- "I really wouldn't have helped anyway, so here is $100 to forget my name."

-- The last option allows you to enter your own amount, saying "I am making this donation to express my appreciation for having nothing to buy, sell or do except fill out this form."

"I think it has struck a universal chord with parents everywhere. I'm getting messages from Australia, England, Scotland and all over. I do want to note; however, that I am not in any way anti-fundraiser," the mother said. "I think they serve a very valuable purpose to our communities, schools, churches and non-profits. I just personally appreciated the option to donate directly and loved the humorous way in which the PTA approached it."

The letter has been shared over 175,000 times on Facebook.

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