Mid now faces rape charges

Ex-football player could get life sentence if convicted of assault on 2 fellow students

September 28, 2006|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,SUN REPORTER

The Naval Academy has charged a former football player with drugging and raping two female midshipmen on separate occasions, including at a party attended by at least four teammates.

Kenny Ray Morrison, 24, is accused of raping one woman in a Georgetown hotel room at the rowdy, boozy party Feb. 4, and the other in Annapolis on April 21, according to charging documents.

The senior had been scheduled to stand trial Tuesday at a special court-martial, a midlevel form of military trial, only on charges of indecent assault and indecent acts in the Georgetown incident. If convicted of those charges, he would receive no jail time.

If found guilty in a military court of the new charges of rape, distribution of a controlled substance and assault in both cases, as well as conduct unbecoming an officer in the Feb. 4 incident, he could receive a maximum of life in prison. Such a sentence is unprecedented in recent history, according to military law experts.

An academy spokesman declined to discuss the case, including the reason for the upgraded charges, because it's part of a continuing investigation.

William Ferris, Morrison's civilian attorney, said the academy can't prove the charges and accused the academy and Navy lawyers of acting unethically in the case. He said his firm is exploring legal challenges based on the argument that his client's rights to a speedy trial and to see evidence against him were violated.

"The whole handling of this, I think, is completely improper, and we're investigating all those issues," he said.

The latest charges could prove embarrassing to the Annapolis military college and the football team, whose former star quarterback was acquitted in July of rape. Lamar S. Owens Jr. was convicted of lesser charges and is awaiting notice from the academy on whether he will be allowed to graduate and be commissioned in the Navy or be kicked out and owe $140,000 for his education.

Owens and Morrison have been temporarily reassigned to the Washington Navy Yard.

According to charging documents, which offer no details about the Annapolis incident, Morrison gave both of his alleged victims gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, also known as GHB, without their knowledge. It is a common date-rape drug that is also used recreationally.

The Sun is not identifying either woman because they are alleged victims of sexual assault.

The documents say that at the Feb. 4 party at the Embassy Suites in Washington, he lifted the woman up from the bed in which she was sleeping, carried her to another bed, took her clothes off and "engaged in multiple acts of sexual intercourse ... without her consent."

According to the documents, he also had sex in front of now-Ensign Jason Monts and exposed his and the alleged victim's nude body to midshipmen Zachary Gallion and Trey Hines and 2005 graduate Kyle Eckel.

A star fullback at Navy, Eckel's mark of 2,906 career rushing yards is the fourth-best in academy history. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots but was waived and then picked up by the Miami Dolphins, who have him on their reserve/military list.

"This has nothing to do with our program," Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said. "This is about charges against Kenny Ray Morrison, who was a walk-on on our team and will have an opportunity to defend himself."

In preliminary hearings on the Feb. 4 incident, attorneys on both sides revealed that Morrison's DNA was recovered from a rape kit examination of the alleged victim.

A judge threw out evidence that the hair of the alleged victim in the Feb. 4 incident tested positive for GHB. Prosecutors could not link the drug to Morrison, and the tests could only prove that the drug was administered in a six-week period that included the time of the alleged assault.

The Feb. 4 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 originally charged with rape.

The new charges will be referred to a military evidentiary hearing, akin to a civilian grand jury; if an investigator determines that there is enough evidence, the case will go to the most serious court-martial forum.

Charlotte Cluverius, a former academy law instructor and officer who now works in private practice in Washington, said the way this case has been prosecuted has been unusual, although it's not unprecedented in military trials to bring more serious charges after finding new evidence while preparing for the trial.

Cluverius said the upcoming evidentiary hearing, called an Article 32, would reveal whether the new evidence will hold up in court.

"They throw up every charge they can find that is even remotely tied to the evidence," she said.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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