Message is focus in rape case

Woman might have invited quarterback to her dorm room at Naval Academy


WASHINGTON -- A female midshipman who has accused former Navy quarterback Lamar Owens of raping her while she was drunk in January might have sent an instant message inviting him to her dorm room before the alleged assault took place, according to testimony on the third day of Owens' court-martial.

In the days after the Jan. 29 incident, the woman told her boyfriend that she may have sent instant messages to Owens that morning, the boyfriend testified.

Owens also told the woman's friends that the female midshipman had given him her room number and invited him to her room, according to one of the women who testified yesterday.

Three prosecution witnesses who saw the woman the night of the alleged rape and the next day testified that she had a visceral reaction to the incident.

Her boyfriend said that when he came to her room afterward, she was curled up in a fetal position on the bed, facing the wall away from him, crying "hysterically." She continued that behavior in the days after the attack, her roommate said.

The Sun is not identifying the woman or her friends - all midshipmen at the Naval Academy - because she is an alleged victim of sexual assault.

The defense plans to file a motion tomorrow to suppress a taped conversation between the woman and Owens Feb. 8 in which he apologized tearfully and repeatedly to the female midshipman.

Not being able to use the tape would be a blow to the prosecution, since it is one of the few pieces of evidence that distinguish this case from cases that rest on the alleged victim's word against the that of the accused.

On the tape, which was made by a Navy investigator and played in preliminary hearings in March, Owens said: "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."

He also told the woman, "I didn't do it long," later adding: "You weren't awake, and I stopped."

The alleged victim testified Tuesday that she barely knew Owens, didn't invite him to her room and resisted repeatedly while he raped her. She said she moved away from him but didn't say "no" or alert her sleeping roommate.

Defense attorneys attacked the credibility of the woman, and portrayed her as a binge drinker who isn't always truthful. They acknowledged that Owens and the woman had sexual relations, but said it was consensual.

The trial is one of three sexual misconduct cases being brought this summer by Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the Naval Academy superintendent. He has taken an aggressive stance against sexual assaults in the aftermath of studies and surveys that have found a hostile climate toward women at the academy.

Owens is charged with rape, conduct unbecoming an officer and violating a military protective order not to go near the female midshipman after the incident.

Owens, a 22-year-old senior who was not allowed to graduate in May, maintains he is innocent. If convicted, he could face life in prison, though such a sentence is rare.

Whatever the outcome of the trial, Owens could be expelled from the Navy because the alleged incident took place in Bancroft Hall. The academy's sprawling dormitory is considered tantamount to a Navy ship, where consensual sexual relations are prohibited.

The female midshipman's boyfriend, now a senior at the academy, testified that the woman was drunk on the night of the incident, and that he struggled to get her to bed that night while she repeatedly asked him to stay. She flirtatiously slapped him at one point, he said.

He left her at 3:30 a.m., returned to his room and found that she was at her computer, sending him instant messages and asking him to come back, he said. The last message she sent him was at 3:47 a.m.

At 4:12 a.m., he received a text message from her: "I'm scared." He didn't take it seriously and received another text message two minutes later, and he immediately called her, he said. She was sobbing on the phone and didn't say anything, except "yes" when he asked her to come over.

"I opened the door and all I heard was loud crying, sir," he told Cmdr. David Wilson, a Navy prosecutor in the case. "Her back was toward me, one arm was tucked down between her legs and her knees were drawn up to her chest."

He said she sobbed continuously for 15 minutes, then, while crying intermittently, told him only that "something bad had happened." Eventually, she said, "I think I was raped" and identified Owens as the assailant.

Defense attorneys focused on an instant message chat her boyfriend saved on his computer that showed the female midshipman's computer being used at 4:11 a.m., one minute before she sent a text message on her cell phone to her boyfriend.

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