Accuser Testifies Against Navy Quarterback
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The court-martial of Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. opened yesterday with a female midshipman accusing him of raping her as she slept in her dorm room, while his defense attorney described her as a drunken aggressor.
The defense argued that pressure to appear tough on sexual assault left the U.S. Naval Academy overly zealous to make an example of Owens, one of its most high-profile athletes. "He should not be a poster child for a crime he did not commit because he is a football player," defense attorney Reid H. Weingarten said.
The court-martial comes at a time when all the military service academies have been under pressure to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment, particularly after highly publicized cases at the Air Force Academy.
The 20-year-old woman, wearing the white midshipman's uniform with her hair pinned back, spoke in a low and calm monotone through much of her testimony. "I thought something very wrong had happened, and I wanted to do what was right," she said, describing her decision to report the Jan. 29 incident to authorities.
Owens, 22, who led the Navy football team to a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl last season, is being tried on charges of rape, conduct unbecoming an officer and violation of a military protective order. If convicted, he could face life in prison. He sat between defense attorneys, only occasionally looking toward his accuser.
During opening statements at Washington Navy Yard, Weingarten described the woman as a "serial violator" of academy rules and said she had a "very serious drinking problem," regularly going on binges and blacking out.
"As she drank, she became very social and very aggressive with guys," Weingarten said.
During her testimony, the woman described going out with friends Jan. 28 to Acme Bar & Grill in downtown Annapolis and drinking three rum and diet Cokes, two shots of tequila, one Southern Comfort and one Kamikaze.
The woman, whom the Washington Post is not identifying because she is alleging rape, was given immunity by the Naval Academy from being punished for any violations of rules, including underage drinking, in exchange for her testimony.
She testified that she did not remember many details of the evening, including leaving the bar. After the bar closed, according to her testimony, she telephoned her boyfriend, another midshipman, and asked him to walk her back to her room at Bancroft Hall. Back in the room, according to Weingarten, she slapped her boyfriend, and he returned to his room.
About 3:40 a.m., the woman sent a series of badly spelled instant messages from her desktop computer to her boyfriend, asking him to come back and saying she wanted "to cuddle."
"But you slapped me," he replied, according to a copy of the exchange that was saved by the boyfriend and was shown in court yesterday.