St. Paul's School rape trial prosecutor: Case highlights need for dialogue about sexual assault

/ Source: TODAY

One of the prosecutors in the St. Paul's prep school rape trial, Catherine Ruffle, said the case put an important spotlight on the need for conversations about sexual assault on campuses and among young people.

"I think that what's most important in this case is that there has been attention to this issue in regard to college campuses," Ruffle told TODAY's Erica Hill on Saturday. "And what this highlights is that the need for these conversations, and the issues to be addressed, at the high school level and perhaps even the middle school level. To educate students and in the community to emphasize the importance of the issue."

MORE: Rape trial spotlights sexual culture at elite St. Paul's prep school

On Friday, a jury acquitted former St. Paul's prep school student Owen Labrie of three counts of felony sexual assault charges, but convicted him of misdemeanor sexual assault, child endangerment and using a computer to lure a minor for sex. Because of the felony conviction for the computer solicitation charge, Labrie, who is 19, will have to register as a sex offender. He could face up to 11 years in prison.

Labrie was accused of raping the then-15-year-old freshman in a tradition at St. Paul's called the "senior salute," where seniors strive for sexual conquests with younger students. The trial cast a spotlight on the sexual environment of the prestigious boarding school, which boasts alumni such as Secretary of State John Kerry and numerous members of Congress.

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Ruffle said that the most important aspect of his sentencing will be rehabilitation.

"The judge has to consider factors of punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation," Ruffle said. "I think that there will be some portion of each of those components." But given Owen's age in the case, she added, rehabilitation would be the most important option "so that he can move forward in life and move beyond this and not continue to commit crimes of this nature will be the most important component."

Labrie, who is out on $15,000 bail, will face sentencing on Oct. 29.