Midshipman sentenced to 2 years

Morrison also dismissed from service for assault

April 11, 2007|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,[sun reporter]

WASHINGTON --A military jury sentenced a former Navy football player yesterday to two years in prison and dismissal from the service for forcing himself on a female midshipman at a Georgetown hotel last year.

Kenny Ray Morrison, 24, who was acquitted of sexually assaulting a second midshipman, showed little emotion when the sentence was read, glancing in the direction of his two accusers on his way out of the courtroom and into federal custody.

The sentence, which must be approved by the Naval Academy superintendent, followed an hour and a half of deliberations and an emotional morning in a Washington Navy Yard courtroom, where Morrison's parents, co-workers, former roommates and football coach requested leniency and vouched for his character.

The woman he was convicted of assaulting took the stand briefly, saying she had been isolated in the 14 months since she reported the incident, losing friends and spending her senior year at the academy with "this immeasurable weight on my shoulders."

"The most humiliating incident of my entire life played out for the whole world to see. I don't think I'll ever fully recover," she said. "I've lost some amount of dignity. I've lost part of myself I can't get back."

Reading from a statement, Morrison apologized, sniffling as his voice quavered.

"I never really wanted to hurt anyone through this whole ordeal," he said, noting that the conviction will require him to register as a sex offender, likely make him repay the $140,000 cost of his education at the Annapolis school and end his lifelong dream of entering politics.

"I apologize to past, present and future alumni who have had to see the name of their school tarnished in the press," he said.

Six men and one woman on the jury panel - all Navy and Marine Corps officers serving at the academy - also convicted Morrison Monday of conduct unbecoming an officer related to the February 2006 incident.

The second woman, who graduated last year from the academy, testified Friday that she woke up naked and in pain next to Morrison in an unfamiliar Annapolis home on April 22.

The woman did not remember anything about the evening, and defense attorneys said she could not allege an assault she did not remember.

Much of the case focused on the Feb. 3 incident, which took place at a Georgetown hotel after various former football players and others had been partying at a Washington nightclub.

Lt. Cmdr. Colin Kisor, a Navy prosecutor, said the woman, now a 21-year-old Naval Academy senior, did not know Morrison well enough to want to have sex with him, was menstruating, drunk and had vomited repeatedly without brushing her teeth before going to bed.

Ferris called the case "a classic he said, she said" situation, noting that the woman admitted kissing Morrison, asked him if he had a condom and got back into bed with him after she had allegedly been raped.

Both women sat together when the verdict and sentence were read, holding hands at some points. The woman who testified yesterday declined to comment, and the other couldn't be reached. A Navy captain who served as president of the jury also declined to comment while other jurors did not immediately return phone messages and e-mails.

Lamar S. Owens Jr., the former standout Navy quarterback who was acquitted of rape last year and is fighting the academy's recommendation that he be expelled, sat next to Morrison's parents and read to him from the Bible during a break.

The guilty verdict is the first for the Annapolis military college in recent years and only the third out of at least 56 reported sexual misconduct allegations since 2001.

"I was stunned by the verdict yesterday," said William Ferris, Morrison's civilian attorney, in a brief statement to reporters after the sentencing. "I can't understand how any reasonable person would have found him guilty based on those facts. I'm working on the appeal already."

Kisor sought three to five years of confinement and dismissal from the Navy, asking jurors to be conscious of "what message you send to him and to the brigade of midshipmen."

"Midshipman Morrison needs time to think about what he's done, time in a military brig," Kisor said.

Morrison began to sob when Eric Bouline - who with his family took him in weekends and holidays as part of an academy program - testified that Morrison was a role model who eagerly helped out around the house. The Annapolis resident also said he trusted Morrison with his 17-year-old daughter and allowed the midshipman to "screen her boyfriends."

Rhenda White-Brunner, Morrison's mother, asked jurors not to allow this trial to be "my son's only legacy."

His father, Kenneth Ray Morrison, begged jurors for a sentence of "no punishment," saying his son and the family had already been punished enough. He also complained that the name of Morrison's victim was not printed in news accounts. The Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault.

"Of course, I disagree with your verdict," he said, addressing jurors directly. "I know my son, and I know if you had the opportunity to spend an hour with him, you would not have voted that way. That verdict totally destroyed the career of a fine young man."


The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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