- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Navy judge said this morning that he would allow prosecutors to play the tape of a phone call during which a former U.S. Naval Academy quarterback apologized to a female midshipman he reputedly raped in her dorm room.

The tape was made Feb. 8 and played during a March hearing before Lamar Owens Jr.’s court-martial. Midshipman Owens, speaking in a soft voice and apparently weeping at times, says he considered killing himself. He tells the woman he “didn’t do it for long” and that “you weren’t awake.”

The defense had tried to block airing the tape before the jury, arguing that the call had been scripted by investigators. They said Midshipman Owens agreed to take the call only because he believed she had reported the incident to authorities and was afraid of antagonizing her.

But Navy Cmdr. John Maksym, the judge in this case, ruled that Navy investigators had followed proper procedures. The tape likely will be played later today, as prosecutors neared the end of their case.

Midshipman Owens, 22, of Savannah, Ga., is charged with rape, conduct unbecoming an officer and violating a military protective order. If convicted, he would be eligible for a maximum term of life in prison.

The woman, 20, has testified that Midshipman Owens came to her room as she slept and forced himself on her. She said she resisted him and did not consent to the sex. The Associated Press is not identifying the woman nor her close friends because she is an reputed victim of sexual assault.

Midshipman Owens’ attorneys said during opening arguments Tuesday that the woman invited him to her room and that the sex was consensual. Midshipman Owens broke it off when he realized the woman, who was drunk, had passed out in bed.

On Thursday, Cmd. Maksym criticized Navy prosecutors, saying some of the evidence and witnesses they presented during the trial has been weak.

After refused to allow a nurse to testify about the medical effect of rape and strictly limiting what a psychiatrist could say about the mental state of rape victims, Cmd. Maksym chastised prosecutors for what he called “the anemic nature of their witnesses.”

It is unclear whether the judge was referring to all the witnesses Navy prosecutors have presented. But he was especially critical of the qualifications of expert witnesses prosecutors tried to call to rebut questions raised by Midshipman Owens’ attorneys about why the woman didn’t cry out during the incident and took several days to report it to authorities.

That included an Army psychiatrist who testified briefly that some victims delay their reporting and many don’t ever tell authorities about sexual assaults. However, the judge noted the psychiatrist was just two weeks into a psychiatry fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“Is there no more?” Cmd. Maksym asked prosecutors. “Come on. The chap just got out of his residency. We’re not talking about the son of Freud here.”

Also, one of the woman’s friends said Thursday that Midshipman Owens told her he “didn’t know what he was thinking” when he went into her room in the early morning hours of Jan. 29 and had sex with her.

The friend said Midshipman Owens told her that things “escalated” when he approached the woman as she slept in her bed but that he should have left before anything happened.

Midshipman Owens said, “if someone had done this to his sister, he would want to kill the person who did it,” the friend told the jury, recounting a conversation she had with Midshipman Owens the day after the reputed rape.

When questioned by Midshipman Owens’ attorney, the friend acknowledged that their client had not admitted to sexually assaulting the woman.

“He never said that he raped her?” attorney Brian Heberlig asked.

“Yes, that’s true,” the friend replied.

The former football standout led Navy’s football team to an 8-4 record and a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl over Colorado State. He was the team’s most valuable player.

A nurse who examined the alleged victim a few days after the incident said that the woman showed no physical signs of rape when she conducted a rape kit exam at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center.

However, Cmd. Maksym refused to let another Navy nurse testify that some rape victims show no signs of injury, but said he would include some language about it in his jury instructions.

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