Navy doctor's lawyer portrays him as a victim

October 30, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- An attorney for a Navy doctor accused of secretly videotaping Naval Academy midshipmen having sex said in court yesterday that the doctor purchased surveillance equipment after becoming concerned that midshipmen were holding parties at his Annapolis home while he was away.

Cmdr. Kevin Ronan, who hosted midshipmen as part of the academy's sponsor program, intended to videotape "public areas" of his house, his lawyer, William Ferris, said during opening statements of the doctor's general court-martial at the Navy Yard. He depicted Ronan as the victim of an extortion plot.

Ronan, a former Naval Academy physician now assigned to the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, was charged in July with seven counts of conduct unbecoming an officer, three counts of illegal wiretapping and one count of obstruction of justice. He faces a maximum of 10 years in a Navy brig if convicted on all charges.

Prosecutors accused Ronan yesterday of using a camera hidden in an air purifier to secretly record midshipmen masturbating and having sex with their girlfriends at his house last year.

Ronan, formerly a physician for several Naval Academy sports teams, committed a "flagrant abuse of trust," and his crimes came to light only after a midshipman found digital video discs and videotapes in his house, said Lt. Justin Henderson, a government prosecutor.

Prosecutors told the jury of five men and one woman - all Navy officers - that they planned to introduce as evidence a folder named "lectures" on Ronan's computer that contained more than 2,000 pictures and images that they characterized as gay pornography. The prosecutors said the evidence suggests a need for Ronan to view images of young athletic men, such as the midshipmen who stayed at his house.

They offered as evidence a receipt and said that Ronan purchased a "nanny cam" from www.spycameras.com in the spring last year. The owner of the Web site testified that he sold Ronan an air purifier with a "pinhole" lens inserted in the grill. He said the equipment included a receiver to transmit signals from the camera.

Ferris said Ronan was "about to deploy" and became concerned that midshipmen would host parties at his house while he was away. He said the doctor had overheard "talk" that included, "When the doc is gone, the party is on."

Ferris also questioned the credibility of Ronan's two main accusers, including one who moved into Ronan's home after being expelled for poor grades. He said that the midshipman has sent falsified documents to the Naval Academy and a potential employer.

He also suggested the midshipman may have been the one who taped sexual encounters.

"I submit to you that [the accuser] knew about this device and used it for his own purposes," Ferris told the jurors.

Ferris said the midshipman had asked Ronan for help paying bills and that Ronan declined.

"This was a plan to extort money from Commander Ronan that went awry," Ferris said before a prosecutor interrupted with an objection.

The prosecution, which called its first two witnesses yesterday, is expected to wrap up its case by the end of the week, said the presiding judge, Marine Col. Steven F. Day.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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