- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Naval Academy midshipman convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow student should spend two years in prison and be dismissed from the Navy, a military jury said yesterday.

The decision will be reviewed by Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the academy’s superintendent.

Midshipman Kenny Ray Morrison showed little reaction as the jury’s decision was announced. He shook his attorney’s hand, then glanced at the victim as he left the courtroom at the Washington Navy Yard.

A jury of seven Navy and Marine Corps officers found Morrison guilty Monday of indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman for forcing himself on a female midshipman at a D.C. hotel in February 2006. Prosecutors had sought a three- to five-year prison term along with dismissal from the Navy.

Morrison, 24, pleaded for leniency yesterday as the jury considered his penalty, saying he had been punished enough.

He said he will have to register as a sex offender, likely have to repay the $140,000 cost of his education at the Annapolis military school and probably forgo his dream of entering politics and eventually becoming governor of Texas, his home state. He also said he has suffered from widespread publicity the case has brought.

Despite the conviction, Morrison told jurors that he still wanted to serve in the Navy. He apologized to the academy and alumni and said he loved his four years at the school.

“I still love the Navy with all my heart,” he said.

Testifying for the prosecution, the woman said her life also has been irreparably changed by the incident, in which she said Morrison had sex with her three times without her consent.

An only child, she said it was difficult to describe details of the assault to her parents. She spent the past year wondering how many of her classmates knew, withdrawing from her fellow students because of the humiliation she felt.

“I’ve lost some amount of dignity,” the woman, now a senior, testified. “I’ve lost part of myself I can’t get back.”

Morrison is the second Navy football player to be court-martialed for sexual assault in the past 12 months. Last summer, star quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. was cleared of rape but found guilty of lesser offenses. The academy superintendent recommended that he be dismissed without graduating, and the Navy secretary is reviewing the proposal.

Owens appeared in the small Washington Navy Yard courtroom yesterday as Morrison’s family and friends took the stand to plead Morrison’s case. Owens sat next to Morrison’s parents and showed the midshipman passages from the Bible during a break.

Morrison, of Kingwood, Texas, is a former backup linebacker on the football team. He was scheduled to graduate last spring, but has remained a midshipman as his legal case continued.

He was court-martialed on sex-assault charges involving two incidents — one at the D.C. hotel and the other involving another woman two months later at an Annapolis apartment. The jury found him not guilty in the Annapolis incident.

Accusations that Morrison used a “date rape” drug to help him assault the women were dropped because of problems with forensic evidence.

In the D.C. case, the woman said that she fell asleep in a hotel room and awoke to find Morrison standing next to her and that he eventually had sex with her. Morrison said that he stumbled across her by accident when he was looking for a place to sleep and that she came on to him and gave her consent.

The second incident took place last April while Morrison was under investigation for the assault at the hotel.

The woman, a Marine lieutenant, said she saw Morrison at an Annapolis bar and accepted a beer from him. Her next memory was waking up more than nine hours later, naked in bed next to him.

Morrison’s attorney, William Ferris, said the woman suspected but could not say for sure that Morrison had sex with her without her consent.

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