The Scandal of Owen Labrie and the #MeToo Movement
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
The US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is working hard to push through new regulations for Title IX. It’s an appropriate time to reflect on the White House and New Hampshire’s partnership and role in the kangaroo courts of the last decade; in particular the criminal trial of New Hampshire versus Owen Labrie, which set a chilling tone for the nation for how sexual assault in high schools should be prosecuted.
Early headlines surrounding the August 2015 high profile trial of Owen Labrie (St. Paul’s School, Class of 2014) included such terminology as “Rape Culture on Display”, “Elite Prep School”, “Decades old Tradition of Sexual Conquest Game “Senior Salute”. St Paul’s School was portrayed as a den of misogyny, emblematic of the “patriarchy”. Labrie himself was described as a Harry Potter look-a-like who used the “nerd defense”. He was described as privileged and arrogant.
Facts matter. Statements by public officials and journalists matter because they become the public record. When those are knowingly false, lives are put in danger, laws are passed under false premise and the public is duped.
Owen Labrie's accuser’s family (Alexander & Susan Prout) donated $100,000 to St Paul’s School in the Spring of 2013 before Chessy Prout, started that fall. Her sister, Lucy Prout, was entering her senior year and applying to college. Lucy Prout had dated Owen Labrie. She also gave him a black eye before graduation while telling police who interviewed her (and documented) that Chessy had actually stated regarding Owen: “I have never said he raped me”. Fifteen months later Chessy stated on the witness stand: “I was raped, I was violated in so many ways”. The statement came after courtroom witnesses had seen victims’ advocates tapping the shoulder of the prosecutor to say “She needs to cry more”.
Labrie’s divorced parents' combined annual income approximated $100,000. He attended St Paul’s School on a full scholarship and had been offered the same by Harvard College. Few of these details ever made it into the news media. I later discovered why: St. Paul’s School was targeted and Owen Labrie framed by the very same group of people who were behind the Rolling Stone’s November 2014 “A Rape on Campus” story which resulted in the defamation suit: “Eramo v Rolling Stone”. That group was The White House “Not Alone” task force formed on January 22, 2014.
The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights was sued a few months ago after Catherine Lhamon, who was in the office in 2014 and has returned under Biden, ignored requests for correspondence between her and, among others, Laura L Dunn who was present at NH v Owen Labrie as “personal representative for the victim’s family”. Criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield wrote in his blog, SimpleJustice, “What Lhamon has to hide from KC Johnson” (see: https://blog.simplejustice.us/2022/03/29/what-lhamon-has-to-hide-from-kc-johnson/) about the suit and the failure of the Department of Education to answer a simple FOIA request.
As part of the St. Paul’s Alumni community by marriage and having been part of the second year intake of girls at a an all-boys prep school in the UK (Sevenoaks School, Kent) in the 80’s, I was drawn into the sensationalist coverage of New Hampshire versus Owen Labrie. Something wasn't right. I have daughters who were considering high schools at the time. After receiving the letter from then Rector Michael Hirschfeld, announcing the multiple felony and misdemeanor charges against recent graduate, Owen Labrie (18), in the summer of 2014, I was shocked that a school would not protect the interests of both accuser and accused before a criminal trial: the interests of privacy, due process and the right to a fair trial. As communications from the school have been sent to the alumni community over the years, it’s apparent that St. Paul’s has largely not been in control of the narrative. This was never more apparent than on August 28th, 2015 when St Paul’s issued a statement following the jury's mixed verdict in which it announced that it was starting to use “Bystander” training (see: https://time.com/4015514/st-pauls-school-rape-verdict-response/)
On September 8, 2015, the Boston Globe published an article: “St. Paul’s graduates want to provide a different picture of their school”. I didn’t know it at the time but I later discovered that the coverage I and so many millions had read or seen on TV was created and controlled by victims’ advocates who had a strategic partnership with the 2014 “Not Alone” White House Task Force and with Concord Police, Merrimack County Prosecutors, gold-digging civil attorneys lobbying for Victims Rights Bills to the Senate, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Ann Kuster.
The “personal representative” who appeared on TV during the trial for the "victim’s family” - Laura L Dunn - was in fact an advisor/member of this White House “Not Alone” task force who was advising Concord Police for their investigation into St Paul’s School and Owen Labrie. That investigation’s budget was approved by the City of Concord Council whose chair of public safety is Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence. Sexton was also on Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s re-election campaign committee. Shaheen introduced the Victim’s Bill of Rights in 2016. One of the ambulance-chasing attorneys Laura Dunn had introduced to the Prout family 5 months before trial, Steven J Kelly Esq, had lobbied the Senate Judicial Committee in May 2015 for the bill. He had argued that victims should be consulted throughout the process of a criminal investigation, prosecution and sentencing. In the abstract, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but Kelly has described himself as a “one-stop-shop” for the “not the perfect victim” who trains witnesses, investigators and prosecutors. Receiving 35% of any settlement he negotiates for “Doe” suits against a school such as St Paul’s, you can see his financial incentive for lobbying for the bill.
In a document published by the National Crime Victims’ Law Institute with a grant from the Department of Justice, Amanda Grady Sexton and Steven J Kelly describe their tactics for pretrial publicity, getting in front of the associated press, working with police and prosecutors, witnesses and third parties to create and control the narrative (see: https://law.lclark.edu/live/files/25195-ncvli-newsletter---pretrial-publicityfriend-and#:~:text=Pretrial%20Publicity%3A%20Friend%20and%20Foe%20Views%20From%20Experts,crime%20victims%20and%20the%20attorneys%20who%20represent%20them).
It was a strategy they used in New Hampshire v Owen Labrie, several Does v St Paul’s School suits and Rapuano & Does v Dartmouth College, which resulted in a $14 million settlement of which the NHCADSV appears to have received $2.865 million. The suit was cited as a probable contributing factor in the suicide of Professor David Bucci. His 10 year old daughter spoke at his funeral. The Concord Monitor which had covered the suit, was silent on Bucci’s death (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/04/us/dartmouth-lawsuit-bucci.html?cid=db&source=ams&sourceId=4397916).
Amanda Grady Sexton’s husband, Adam Sexton, a political director and reporter for WMUR, reported the arrest of Owen Labrie on July 16th 2014 just one day after Laura L Dunn and members of the White House Task Force had spoken at Dartmouth Sexual Assault Summit introduced by Congresswoman Ann Kuster.
When Owen Labrie turned himself in on July 16th after being blindsided by the arrest warrant with no warning from the prosecutors, Concord Police told him his face would be famous. The police had interviewed him five weeks earlier, refuting his mother’s suggestion that an attorney should be present while he was being questioned. A few days earlier, Chessy Prout had texted him to say “things are getting out of control” (or similar wording). Why would she text her rapist to say this?
It is my belief, eight years later, as Owen Labrie having just completed several years of probation, eight months incarceration including two months in solitary confinement, endured a failed retrial hearing and two appeals, that both students were used by the White House Task Force. A task force that was working in cahoots with the University of New Hampshire (promoting “Bringing in the Bystander” and “Know Your Power” training paid for via federal grants) and local New Hampshire public officials.
My growing suspicions were validated in November 2019 when I met S. Daniel Carter, another advisor to the White House “Not Alone” task force who described Laura Dunn as his “mentee”. He had co-founded non-profit SurvJustice with Dunn in 2014 shortly before Labrie’s arrest. He admitted to me that the use of publicity in the case was insensitive and problematic. More concerning was an assertion that his understanding of Dunn’s attendance at the trial was tied to a White House interest in St Paul’s School as opposed to Labrie himself.
SurvJustice, according to its IRS Form 990’s, was directly tied to the White House “Not Alone” directive and listed as a resource on its site. Dunn had also made a public statement in September 2014 when Emma Watson became the ambassador for UN Women and the #HeForShe campaign. An excerpt from Rewire News group’s “Power” section by Emily Crocket reads:
As Laura Dunn, founder of the sexual assault survivor advocacy group SurvJustice, told Rewire, campaigns like HeForShe, with an icon for the “Harry Potter generation” behind them, make issues around feminism and sexual violence prevention easier for younger generations to understand.
“It shifts their mindset, and maybe challenges the norms accepted by older generations too,” Dunn said.
That is more than a symbolic change. Take our legal system: “The reason a lot of sexual assault cases aren’t prosecuted is, ‘The jury won’t understand, they won’t like that you were drinking,’ that kind of thing,” Dunn said. But when today’s kids grow up to prosecute these cases or serve on juries, “you won’t need an expert to explain rape culture.”
Dunn said that another big part of this shift, especially on the issue of campus sexual assault in the last few years, is due less to celebrities speaking out than to survivors like herself telling their stories to the media, sometimes coming out with their full names and faces. They were no longer anonymous Jane Does but real women demanding real justice, which made some people start to sympathize with them and share their outrage (see: https://rewirenewsgroup.com/2014/09/24/us-emma-watson-white-house-efforts-change-culture-womens-rights/).
Amanda Grady Sexton of the NHCADSV, according to the Concord Monitor, attended the Labrie trial to “keep tabs on the media”. A motion by the Prouts’ representatives (which included Laura Dunn and Steven J Kelly) managed to restrict media access to those journalist who were taking the bait from NHCADSV, police, prosecutors, Dunn and Kelly. Sexton described it as “an opportunity” (see: https://www.concordmonitor.com/Archive/2015/08/LabrieMedia-CM-082315).
When reports of Labrie’s appeal regarding the computer felony conviction surfaced (the computer felony conviction requires lifetime tier 2 sex offender registration), Amanda Grady Sexton penned an op-ed in the Concord Monitor in which she mentioned both her official titles for the NHCADSV and City of Concord Council but failed to report her organization’s financial interest in seeking sex offender registration for Labrie. Since 2014, New Hampshire has received close to $1 million under the Adam Walsh Act for Sex Offender Registration. On the same day that the White House’s “Not Alone” paper was published, April 29, 2014, the Department of Justice announced a new grant incentive under the Adam Walsh Act for “Campus Sex Offenses”. The NHCADSV is in charge of the State of New Hampshire’s sex offender registration management.
Steven J Kelly led several lawsuits against St Paul’s School in the wake of NH v Owen Labrie starting with the Prouts suit against the school on June 1, 2016. Susan Zalkind, reporting for Vice Media, received a copy of the suit before the school was able to obtain a copy from courts, which had already closed for the day. NBC Today Show and the Concord Monitor were also furnished with copies. The school obtained its copy from Jeremy Blackman at the Concord Monitor who was given it by “a source”. Zalkind has an entire page of links to articles relating to Labrie. Her coverage had to have been paid for by an interested party connected to Sexton, Dunn, Kelly and the prosecutors (see: https://zalkind.info/owen-labrie).
When Gordon MacDonald became the Attorney General for New Hampshire, the NHCADSV lobbied him for a Grand Jury Criminal Investigation into St Paul’s School. The report was completed in August 2018 and a settlement agreement reached with the school that September. Laura Dunn tweeted a congratulations to the Prout family for the agreement, which required a compliance officer and a contract with the NHCADSV whose Director of Public Affairs, Amanda Grady Sexton, in her capacity as Chair for the City of Concord’s Public Safety Committee would have approved the budget for the police’s investigation into the school. The school waived its right for privacy. David Vicinanzo, attorney for the NHCADSV, praised Judge Richard McNamara’s decision to ignore that and to keep the report private. As Mark Hayward of the Union Leader commented: “His ruling decided a case that had been argued in secret”.
The agreement echoed another one reached with the Diocese of Manchester over a decade before. Many of the same people were involved including AG Gordon MacDonald who is now New Hampshire’s Supreme Court Chief Justice see: https://beyondthesestonewalls.com/blog/gordon-macrae/grand-jury-st-pauls-school-the-diocese-of-manchester).
The “compliance” officer for the Diocese was Monsignor Edward Arsenault. The police officer involved in the Diocese of Manchester investigation which resulted in the arrest and prosecution of Father Gordon MacRae, was James F. McLaughlin who was given a lifetime achievement award in 2016. At the same ceremony, Police Detective Julie Curtin, the officer involved in the St. Paul’s and Labrie investigations, received an award for her work and “justice for the victim”.
Edward Arsenault pled guilty to defrauding the Diocese between the years of 1999 and 2009. He shook hands with Assistant Attorney General Jane Young (now US Attorney for New Hampshire) before going to Concord Men’s Prison where he was quickly transferred to Keene County Jail in 2014. He was later released on home confinement and is now free working for non-profit ReServe under the name Edward Bolognini. His restitution - amounting to almost $300,000 - was miraculously paid off while he was incarcerated.
James F McLaughlin’s name appeared on a list of police officers with credibility issues published earlier this year. He has been known to the New Hampshire Courts for dishonesty since 1985 - a full 9 years before Father Gordon MacRae was targeted, prosecuted and convicted for crimes for which many around the world believe he was framed. MacRae is in his 28th year in Concord men’s prison. He was denied the right to a retrial in 2014 by Judge Larry Smukler who presided over the Labrie trial in 2015. Smukler similarly denied Labrie a retrial in 2017 and claimed “justice for the victim” in December 2018 as he ordered Labrie back to Merrimack County jail, after his appeals, to complete his one year sentence for misdemeanor sexual assault convictions.
Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward deleted the names of 28 corrupt police officers shortly before a New Hampshire bill went into effect this year which would have made them public. Detective Julie Curtin no longer works for the City of Concord. She is employed by Epping Police Department. Numerous requests for an investigation into her tainted investigations, witness and evidence tampering have gone unanswered.
Lyn Rosenthal of the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women said upon leaving office in 2015 that the reason the Obama administration focused on campuses was because if they got it right there they would influence generations to come. In 2016, she became president of SurvJustice which lost a lawsuit to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over due process in Title IX campus sex discrimination. On the board of SurvJustice with Laura Dunn and S. Daniel Carter was Meg Garvin of the NCVLI which also rewarded Detective Julie Curtin for her work in the St. Paul’s and Labrie investigation.
Lyn Schollett, Executive Director of the NHCADSV is on the board of directors for Soteria Solutions Inc which markets “Bringing in the Bystander” and “Know Your Power” training to schools, colleges and universities around the world. It was recognized by the White House for entrepreneurship using federal grants.
Federal grants to New Hampshire for sexual assault and related research have increased exponentially since 2014, the year that St Paul’s School was targeted and Owen Labrie framed.
To read more, please see my piece on Medium: https://medium.com/@claire_22581/how-safe-is-st-pauls-school-under-the-jurisdiction-of-the-city-of-concord-council-its-police-cc5d97fd0ffd
Claire Best heads Claire Best & Associates, an international talent agency representing some of the most respected names in the entertainment industry for film, television, and commercials that was established in 2010. She had 16 years of experience in the agency business as an owner, C.E.O. and C.O.O. before Claire Best & Associates. Prior to becoming an agent in 2002, Claire was a production executive at New Line Cinema and Fine Line Features where she oversaw the production of many well-known domestic and international feature films from 1996-2001. Claire has also produced and executive produced a number of award winning and critically acclaimed features, shorts, and documentaries. She is a voting member of B.A.F.T.A. and the Television Academy (see: clairebest.net).
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