Commander Supports Clearing Ex-Quarterback

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By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 19, 2007

A Navy commander affirmed a jury's decision to clear former Naval Academy star quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. of raping a female midshipman and spare him any punishment for convictions of conduct unbecoming an officer and violating a military protective order.

The order, signed yesterday by Vice Adm. Paul E. Sullivan, head of the Naval Sea Systems Command, came the same day that the Naval Academy announced that rape charges against another former Navy football player would be dropped. Midshipman Kenny Ray Morrison, who was also accused of drugging two female midshipmen, will now face a court-martial on lesser offenses stemming from alleged sexual misconduct.

Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the Naval Academy superintendent, has drawn criticism for his handling of the two cases from last year. Rempt recused himself from any further consideration of Owens's legal case after accusations of bias but will continue to consider the administrative decision on Owens's future in the Navy, an academy spokeswoman said in a statement yesterday. Owens, 23, could lose his chance to graduate from the academy and receive a Naval commission and be forced to repay the cost of his education -- about $136,000.

Morrison's attorney has also said he will ask Rempt to recuse himself.

The development in the Morrison case came after tests did not find traces of the date-rape drug GHB in the hair of Morrison's two accusers. Morrison, 24, will face a general court-martial on charges of indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer.

"These cases are always sad," Rempt wrote in statement. "We have midshipmen who reported being assaulted and a midshipman accused of assault. It is now up to the military court to decide the proper outcome of the case. I ask everyone to let the process proceed without jumping to conclusions or believing they are aware of all the factors being considered."

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