Academy head quiet on recommendation for Mid

Rempt could suggest an action on student's future

December 19, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

The superintendent of the Naval Academy, who recused himself last week from a decisive role in the court-martial of former Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr., has not said whether he will make the call in recommending whether Owens will graduate or be forced to repay the government for his $140,000 college education.

Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt dropped his position as the convening authority in Owens' case - a role that decides if the court-martial convictions will stand - after months of criticism by alumni supportive of Owens and who claim Rempt appears biased.

In a prepared statement, the academy called the allegations that Rempt is not impartial untrue.

"We, of course, think that the conviction should be overturned, that Lamar should be cleared," said Owens' defense counsel Reid Weingarten.

"There has been a tremendous amount of evidence in the records that at least there is a preconceived notion of how this case should be resolved," Weingarten added.

The academy's statement decried what officials said was a defense effort to make the matter about "the credibility of the convening authority" and not Owens' convictions.

Rempt has become a lightning rod for some alumni who claim he is overzealous in pursuing well-publicized sexual assault and harassment cases as a means of placating congressional critics and women's advocacy groups.

Owens, 23, was acquitted of rape at a July court-martial, but convicted of two lesser offenses - conduct unbecoming an officer and violating a protective order.

It will be up to a new convening authority, to be chosen by the chief of naval operations, to decide whether to throw out the convictions. A military jury recommended that Owens not be punished.

In the written statement, the academy did not say whether Rempt would pull back from making the administrative recommendations on whether to boot Owens out of the academy - leaving him open to an order to repay the government for his Annapolis education - and whether to allow Owens a future with the Navy.

Cmdr. Ed Austin, a spokesman for the academy, declined to elaborate on the college's statement.

In the two-track process, the administrative side would not begin until after the court-martial is closed. Weingarten said he expects to ask Rempt to recuse himself from that for the same reason as in the legal case.

Before the court-martial, the defense accused Rempt of unlawful command influence due to a statement he issued. A military judge ruled there was no unlawful command influence, but said he did "insinuate guilt."

Sun reporter Nicole Fuller contributed to this article.

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