Naval Academy drops sex counts against Mid, but case not over

September 26, 2006|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,sun reporter

The Naval Academy has temporarily dropped sexual misconduct charges against Kenny Ray Morrison, a senior and former football player whose military trial was to begin today. But the case is not over.

Cmdr. Ed Austin, spokesman for the academy, said "additional information" became available in the case and that it is now "under active investigation."

"As a result, the Naval Academy superintendent has directed that the existing charges be withdrawn," he said. "Based on the ongoing investigation, the Naval Academy anticipates proffering new charges," which will be referred to an Article 32 hearing, akin to a grand jury proceeding in civilian court.

Morrison, 24, of Kingwood, Texas, had been charged with indecent assault, indecent acts and conduct unbecoming an officer stemming from a Feb. 4 incident at a Georgetown hotel. Austin declined to comment further about the additional information or on Morrison's status while the investigation continues. A Navy prosecutor in the case also declined to comment.

William Ferris, Morrison's attorney, said yesterday that the delay in the case violates his client's right to a speedy trial and that he had not received an explanation as to why the charges were dropped.

Since Friday, he said, he repeatedly called Navy prosecutors and lawyers about the status of the case - having heard from a witness who said it would be called off - and all failed to answer any of his numerous phone calls.

"I am extremely upset about the way this has been handled, and I have every intention of filing a professional complaint against one of the attorneys in this case," he said. "The way this has been handled has been absolutely unethical."

Little has been made public about the case since Morrison was charged in April.

In a Sept. 13 preliminary hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys said Morrison's DNA was recovered from a rape kit examination of the woman. The military judge in the case cleared the courtroom to allow further discussion of that evidence, citing rape shield laws.

He also threw out evidence that the alleged victim in the case was given a date rape drug during a six-week period that included the date of the incident because prosecutors could not link that evidence to Morrison.

The incident was originally investigated by Washington's Metropolitan Police Department and turned over to a civilian grand jury. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have declined to comment about the grand jury's findings, how the case was turned over to Navy investigators or why Morrison was not charged with rape.

Morrison's case has been largely eclipsed by that of former Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr., who was acquitted of rape in July but convicted of lesser charges. Owens' status is still uncertain, and he has been temporarily reassigned to the Washington Navy Yard.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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