Mid player apologized to accuser on tape

Phone call used at rape hearing of Navy quarterback

March 09, 2006|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- In a conversation taped by an investigator, standout Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. tearfully apologized to the fellow midshipman he is accused of raping after admitting that he had sex with her in her Naval Academy dorm room.

On the tape, played by prosecutors at a hearing yesterday to determine whether there is enough evidence for a court-martial, Owens was emotional and apologized often, at one point saying: "I'm so sorry. ... I woke up the next day and I called you, and I wanted to kill myself and I still feel like that."

His accuser, a sophomore and varsity athlete at the academy who testified in sometimes graphic language at the hearing held at the Washington Navy Yard, confronted him various times during the phone conversation, which took place Feb. 8 and lasted about 10 minutes. She asked him what she should tell her parents, her brother and her little sister. Owens could be heard crying on the tape, and then said, "I could never expect you to forgive me."

The charges against Owens - the Most Valuable Player of the academy's bowl-winning football squad last season - have rocked the military college as it struggles to correct what a Pentagon task force termed last year a "hostile" atmosphere for women on the Annapolis campus. In addition to Owens, two other athletes have been investigated in the past several weeks for allegations of sex crimes, one of rape and another of a consensual encounter against academy rules. A professor faces a court-martial on allegations of using inappropriate language.

Owens' attorney says his client is not guilty and yesterday zeroed in on how much his alleged victim may have been coached in the taped conversation, both by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent and a Navy advocate assigned to the accuser.

Attorneys at the proceeding also asked her about her drinking that night - she acknowledged being drunk - and whether it could have been possible that she gave Owens her consent and didn't remember.

"I suppose," she said but later countered: "I wouldn't define it as consent if I can't remember it happening."

Asked by a prosecutor whether she would have consented if she had not been drunk, she said no.

The Sun does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

The Article 32 hearing - a pretrial investigation by a military officer akin to a civilian grand jury - will likely conclude today.

The investigating officer can recommend a court-martial, administrative punishment or no action to the academy's superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt. The superintendent will then decide what action to take with the case.

Owens was charged Feb. 22 with rape, indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer. The maximum penalty for rape in a general court-martial is life in prison, but most rape cases in the military don't produce that sentence, victim advocacy groups say.

A key factor in the case is likely to be the question of consent and the accuser's inability to remember what happened at different points of the night because she had been drinking. Defense lawyers referred repeatedly to an alleged conversation the accuser had with Owens through an instant message program. The woman said she did not remember the conversation, but her boyfriend testified that she told him she may have communicated with Owens.

Owens allegedly told two midshipmen that he, too, was drunk on the night of the incident.

At the beginning of the phone call, the woman asked Owens whether she should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.

Owens told her no, and she asked whether he used a contraceptive, and he replied that he hadn't. When she pressed, he said, "I didn't do it long," and later added: "You weren't awake and I stopped."

She pressed him about his religious beliefs and implied that he should ask God for forgiveness.

"Didn't you realize when I wasn't kissing you back?" she asked. "Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

He didn't answer.

"Why don't you call my dad and tell him that you raped his daughter?"

He didn't answer.

In more than two hours of testimony, during which the woman never lost her composure or broke down, she described Owens as an acquaintance to whom she said hello on occasion and had communicated with in Internet messages in the past. Several times, he complimented her looks, she said, including in one text message she didn't respond to in early January, where he allegedly wrote: "You were looking good tonight."

The woman testified that on Jan. 28 and into the early morning hours of Jan. 29, after a night of heavy drinking that she remembered in pieces, she awoke sometime after 3:30 a.m. to Owens, at her bed, kissing her. She said that she turned away so that he would stop and that he kissed her again. She said she told him she had a boyfriend and then tried to go to sleep.

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