Elements of the crime.
In the case, The State of New Hampshire v. Owen Labrie, the defendant, Owen Labrie was tried with various counts of offenses. The prosecution indictments are as follows.
That the defendant committed the crime(s) of:
Three counts of aggravated Felonious assault. In the offense, the prosecution claimed that the defendant had;
Engaged in sexual activities with a minor person
Assaulted minor who had not consent to the accused's act of sexual performance
Committed the offense(s) knowingly and/or intentionally.
Certain uses of computer services prohibited. The defendant intentionally and/or knowing unlawfully used a computer and/or internet services to seduce and lure a minor under the age of 16 to commit an offense stipulated under RSA 632-A against the minor
Three counts of sexual assault. Labrie, the defendant, was tried with engaging in sexual penetration of a female minor who at the time of the crime the female minor was under 16 years of age and the age difference of the accused and the female minor was four years or less. The defendant was not a spouse of the female juvenile and did commit the offenses knowingly and/or intentionally.
Endangering the welfare of a child. The prosecution tried the defendant on a misdemeanor offense on grounds that the defendant, purposely endangered the welfare of a minor female student who sage is under 18 by inducing the said minor into engaging in sexual acts thereby violating a duty of care, and protection which the defendant owed to her because of his status as a Student leader Prefect.
Simple assault. The defendant was tried with knowingly and/or purposely causing an unprivileged physical contact to a female minor of age under 18 when he bit her chest.
The defendants primary attack was focused on the felony charges of the Certain Uses of Computers, whose indictment alleged a violation of RSA 649-B: 4. In his defense, Labrie asserted that the prosecution had failed to challenge the certain uses of the computer at pre-trial. The defendant argued that the legislature did not intend the RSA 649-B:4 to reach the conduct of what he was being charged with, misdemeanor sexual assault stipulated under RSA 632-A:4, I(c). The defendant argued that statue was directed only to protect children from the risks of computer solicitation which are age disparity and anonymity. The defense pointed out that there was no such risk in the present case. The defendant further stressed that in the case that he had solicited the sexual penetration through direct conversation or using a phone he would not have been convicted. In the matter, the defendant asserted that the imposition of the misdemeanor felony conviction and the related registration prerequisite to the said solicitation through emails that are usually used by teens was wholly disparate. The defense attorney stated that the intent of the legislature was dubious in that it intended to increase the penalty by sevenfold in the underlying misdemeanor offense (Lawrence, 2015).
The defense further stressed that during the trial, the prosecution failed to challenge the application of the computer use statute. The defense argued that failure to do so proved the ineffectiveness as it did not allow a timely argument on the adequacy of the evidence, therefore, could not be used by the trial counsel. However, the court later rejected the argument in its Order of Oct. 20, 2015, at 6. In his argument, the defendant stated that he could not have the knowledge that his argument had merit until the jurys verdict that found him not guilty on the charges of the aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA) indictments.
The next attack by the defense was directed to the trial counsels failure to seek a bill of particulars that would determine the specific communication that the state had relied on in proving its indictment on the computer uses. In the Motion, the defendant faults ultimately resulted in lack of the State to establish the defendants mental state during the time he was communicating with the accuser. The defendant further argued for the State to identify the mode of communication that would be relied upon when establishing the violation of RSA 649-B:4.
In a new trial requested by the defendant, his attorneys claim that the previous defense team had failed to argue the context in which the internet definition was applied in the indictment of certain uses of computer services prohibited. The attorneys argue that there is a clear distinction between intranet and internet (Francis, n.d)
The trial of Owen Labrie highlighted some concerns about the some of the constitutional issues raised in the case. One of the issues that got my attention is whether the statue that is related the uses of computers in luring underage persons, Certain Uses of Computer Services Prohibited was appropriate in the case State v. Owen Labrie. Shatzs (2017) argument regarding the use of statue in the case claims the statue purpose is to prevent adults from luring unsuspecting minors by disguising their identities which were not the case in Owen Labries situation. The law was formulated 20 years ago when the use of technology was advent, and therefore it requires revision by the States legislature.
STATE v. OWEN LABRIE
The State of New Hampshire Superior Court
Merrimack County Superior Court Case No. 217-2014-CR-617, 2015.
One Owen Labrie, an 18-year-old senior and a female juvenile (D.O.B. 10/24/1998), a 15-year-old freshman were students at St. Pauls School in Concord, New Hampshire. Prior to the defendants graduation from the school, he invited the plaintiff to a secluded area of the university grounds through series of Facebook messages and emails.
The plaintiff agreed, and they went with the defendant to the top of Lindsay building where the defendant performed acts of sexual penetration with the female juvenile (D.O.B. 10/24/1998). In the aftermath of the encounter, they exchanged emails and Facebook messages about the encounter. The female juvenile (D.O.B. 10/24/1998) older sister learned of the encounter and confronted the defendant. The female juvenile called her mother, and the schools management contacted the authorities.
The defendant, Owen Labrie, was tried on one count of certain uses of Computer Services Prohibited, three counts of Aggravated Felonious Sexual Assault (AFSA), three counts of Sexual Assault, one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and one count of Simple Assault. He was found guilty and was convicted on three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and Certain uses of a Computer Prohibited (State of NH v. Owen Labrie, n.d)
The defendant appealed the verdict claiming ineffective assistance from his defense team.
Did the defendant commit the crimes of Aggravated Felonious Sexual Assault contrary to RSA 632-A:2 I, Certain Uses of Computer Services Prohibited contrary to RSA 649-B:4, Endangering Welfare of Child contrary to RSA 639:3, and Simple Assault contrary to RSA 631:2-a offenses?
The jury found the defendant guilty and convicted him of the felony charge of using a computer of luring an underage person to engage in sexual activity, Endangering the Welfare of a Child and misdemeanor counts of statutory rape and sentenced him to one year in jail, five years of probation, and a lifetime registry as a sex offender. The defendant appealed the conviction.
In the case, the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff in some of the offenses tried. In the trial, there was criticism regarding the way in which the defendants attorney handled the case. The use of the statue related to using a computer to lure minor (NH Rev Stat 649-B:4), was questioned about its use in Labries case because the legislation was meant to prevent adults from preying on minors by disguising themselves, an act that did not occur in Labries situation.
In the new trial motion, Rancourt (Labries defense attorney) testified that the trial team had been ineffective due to its lack of challenging the charge 649-B:4 asserting that the other defense attorneys had failed to consider the possibility that the State could consider the defendant had committed aggravated sexual assault and therefore sustaining the computer charge. The defendants argument against the definition of internet and intranet highlights the issue with the criminal laws. The New Hampshire computer laws were written decades ago when the current use of the internet was not comprehensible. The issues highlighted shows that the laws that deal with technology need revision so as to reflect the current use and state of technology.
The other issue presented in the Owen Labries case is the way in which the society view teenage sexuality on whether the intentions had grave criminal consequences. Whereas there are no exceptions in place that recognizes if the act was consensual, the Labries case shows how the straightforwardness application of the computer law in the State is precarious especially in the node of technology and teenage sexuality. The felony that requires lifetime registry as a sex offender because of the medium or technology used in communication as in the case of Labrie is an issue that needs to be addressed by the states legislature.
In my opinion, I would have found the defendant guilty of the offenses charged in misdemeanor sexual assault. The defendant did engage in sexual acts with a juvenile who could not consent because she was under the age of 16 years at the time of the crime. In the offense of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, I would have found the defendant guilty in that he solicited a child (under 16 years of age) into engaging in acts of sexual penetration. By inviting the victim to Senior Salute, the defendant had solicited the minor.
In the count of computer use, I would have found the defendant not guilty because the law does not define intranet use as solicitation. Having the defendant register as a lifetime sex offender is precarious in that the law relies on the method used to communicate and does not take into consideration the evolvement of technology.
Francis, E. (n.d.). Owen Labrie is back in court, seeking a new trial. Retrieved October 03, 2017, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/owen-labrie-back-court-seeking-trial/story?id=45633598
Lawrence, J. (2015, September 18). St Paul assault case: lawyers ask court to throw out felony conviction. Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/18/st-paul-owen-labrie-case-lawyers-ask-court-throw-out-felony-conviction
Shatz, N. (2017, February 23). Owen Labries Attempt to Get a New Trial Illustrates Serious Problems with Criminal Laws Related to Computer Sex Crimes. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.bostonlawyerblog.com/2017/02/23/owen-labries-attempt-get-new-trial-illustrates-serious-problems-criminal-laws-related-computer-sex-crimes/
State of NH v. Owen Labrie n.d. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.courts.state.nh.us/caseinfo/pdf/labrie/index.htm
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