Midshipman Gets 2 Years for Assault

By Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A former U.S. Naval Academy football player was sentenced yesterday to two years of confinement and dismissal from the Navy for sexually assaulting a female midshipman at a District hotel last year.

Midshipman Kenny Ray Morrison, 24, of Kingwood, Tex., appeared emotionless, except for two tightly balled fists, as he listened to a sentence rendered after about an hour of deliberation by a jury of seven Navy and Marine Corps officers at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Morrison had faced up to 10 years in prison after being found guilty Monday of indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer but cleared of sexual misconduct charges involving a second female midshipman. Prosecutors had asked for three to five years of confinement.

Before his sentencing at Washington Navy Yard, the former linebacker emotionally read an unsworn statement during which, between sniffles, he took a measure of responsibility, saying: "I put myself in this situation." He offered direct apologies to his family and those connected with the Naval Academy, but he made no reference to his accusers or his crime.

"I'm sorry," Morrison said. "I never really meant to hurt anyone."

The victim in the February 2006 assault told the court that the case had been an "immeasurable weight on my shoulder." The woman, whose name is being withheld by The Washington Post because she is a sexual assault victim, said that "the most humiliating incident in my life" had been played out in blogs and the media. The result, the woman said, is that she will "never recover what I could have been, what I would have been."

"I've lost a part of myself," she said.

Morrison's attorney, William M. Ferris, said afterward that his "client maintains his innocence" and that he planned to appeal the verdict. Ferris, who has said Morrison engaged in consensual sex, has accused the academy of "jury stacking" by offering a jury of senior officers.

Capt. Daniel King, the president of the jury, declined to comment on the verdict.

The jury's decision will be reviewed by the Naval Academy superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, who may reduce but not increase the punishment, according to a Navy official.

Although Rempt has been praised for targeting alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct at the academy, he has been criticized for what some consider an overzealous approach to sexual assault cases. In July, star Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. was cleared of rape but convicted of related misconduct in an incident involving a female midshipman. Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter is deciding whether to accept Rempt's recommendation that Owens be forbidden to graduate or receive a commission as an officer.

Owens, who remains on administrative duty at the Navy Yard, was in the courtroom yesterday to lend Morrison support. He remained silent as other Morrison supporters -- his parents, classmates, members of his Annapolis "sponsor" family and Navy's head football coach, Paul Johnson -- collectively told a story that focused on Morrison's burning ambition and broken dreams.

They spoke of how Morrison came to the academy as a last-minute football recruit and came to live the dream of generations of military men in his family, including his father, a Vietnam veteran.

Like others, Johnson expressed surprise at Morrison's conviction.

"Nothing that I've seen would be consistent with that type of behavior," Johnson said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company