- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Navy doctor accused of secretly videotaping Naval Academy midshipmen engaged in sexual acts committed a “flagrant violation of trust,” military prosecutors said yesterday as the doctor’s court martial began.

Cmdr. Kevin J. Ronan is charged with using a video camera hidden in an air purifier in his home to tape midshipmen he hosted at his house last year. He is charged with seven counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer, three counts of illegal wiretapping and one count of obstruction of justice.

The Navy began its investigation in January after two men, one a midshipman and the other a former student at the Naval Academy, found the recordings in Cmdr. Ronan’s home and turned them over to authorities.

Navy prosecutor Lt. Justin Henderson said Cmdr. Ronan recorded midshipmen either with partners or alone in his spare bedrooms, edited them down to the sexually explicit content and transferred them to DVDs. Hundreds of homosexual pornographic images also were found on Cmdr. Ronan’s home computer, prosecutors said.

“Dr. Ronan violated the trust of his midshipmen sponsorees,” Lt. Henderson told the jury of six Navy officers hearing the case at the Washington Navy Yard.

Navy investigators found a purifier with a camera inside in the attic of Cmdr. Ronan’s Annapolis home. The system is commonly known as a “nanny cam” for secretly monitoring caregivers. The owner of a company that sold it to Cmdr. Ronan for $677 said the doctor ordered an upgraded version with sound that could record in low light.

Cmdr. Ronan is assigned to the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery but was previously a team physician for Naval Academy sports teams and a medical officer in the midshipman dorm. He also was designated as a midshipman sponsor by the Naval Academy, hosting roughly a dozen students under the program in which midshipmen spend weekends off campus at private homes to relax.

Defense attorney William Ferris said that Cmdr. Ronan did not make the videotapes and that he bought the air purifier with the camera only to check on whether his midshipmanguests were having parties while he was away.

The tapes could have been the result of an attempt by one of the two to extract money from Cmdr. Ronan, Mr. Ferris said. The man was expelled from the academy in January and faced the prospect of having to repay thousands of dollars to the government for his education. He already had asked Cmdr. Ronan for money and had been refused.

“This was a plan to extort money from Mr. Ronan that went awry,” Mr. Ferris said.

The attorney also suggested that the midshipmen, who had access to Cmdr. Ronan’s home computer, may have been responsible for the pornography found on his hard drive.

The military judge hearing the case ruled earlier this month that prosecutors can use the pornography in their case, described by Lt. Henderson as images of “athletic young men” and stills from pornographic videos. Prosecutors say the images demonstrate a motive for Cmdr. Ronan to tape the midshipmen. Mr. Ferris asserted that the photos were not relevant to the case.

The case is expected to last two weeks.

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