Didn't know they were on tape, 2 say

Pair of former midshipmen testify at court-martial of Navy doctor in sex videos case

October 31, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- Two former Naval Academy midshipmen testified yesterday they had no idea they were being taped as they had sex with their girlfriends in a Navy doctor's home. But attorneys for the physician noted that one clip shows one of the men apparently looking repeatedly at the camera, raising the possibility that he knew he was being filmed.

Prosecutors played the clip, along with two other sexually explicit encounters from a homemade digital video disc, on the second day of Cmdr. Kevin Ronan's court-martial at the Washington Navy Yard.

Ronan, who hosted midshipmen at his Annapolis home during weekends as part of the Naval Academy's sponsor program, is accused of making that DVD and others using a small camera hidden inside an air purifier. He is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, illegal wiretapping and obstruction of justice, and could face a maximum of 10 years in a brig if convicted.

The jury of five men and one woman - all Navy officers - sat silently as the videos were played on a large screen, and several of the approximately 15 people in the courtroom looked away or cringed.

One young man who appeared in two of the clips, who graduated from the academy this year, testified that he first saw the videos in January after a former midshipman discovered them on a DVD in Ronan's house. He described his reaction to seeing the tapes as "disbelief and shock."

"I didn't really believe it," he said quietly, adding that he and the other midshipman immediately began searching Ronan's house. "We wanted to make sure there was no other videos."

The Sun is not naming the accusers because they are alleged to be the victims of a sex crime.

The men, both 22, testified that they found more than a dozen DVDs and videocassettes in Ronan's house. The tapes, they testified, showed at least six different midshipmen having sex with girlfriends or masturbating.

Attorneys for Ronan have said the physician - now assigned to the Naval Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington - had nothing to do with the videos and that they might have been made by one or both of the young men who testified yesterday.

They pointed out that in a nine-minute clip shown in court, one of the accusers turns around after sex with his girlfriend and repeatedly looks toward the camera. On Monday, Ronan's lawyers alleged that the doctor was the victim of an extortion plot.

The former midshipman explained that he had been glancing at a TV that was supporting the hidden camera. He added the purifier containing the camera was put in various rooms.

The defense attorneys also questioned the midshipmen about inconsistencies in their statements to authorities. For example, the first accuser could not recall exactly when he found the hidden camera or whether the other midshipman was present.

Ronan's attorneys also questioned why the first accuser waited until July - weeks after testifying at a hearing akin to a grand jury proceeding - to hand over three additional DVDs he says he took from Ronan's home. He said he had sent the DVDs to his lawyer and his stepfather in case "something happened" with the ones given to investigators.

Defense attorneys also pointed out that the man was ordered to pay more than $122,000 to the government after being dismissed from the Naval Academy. They questioned the decision by him and other accusers to hire a lawyer.

The man said he hired a lawyer because he knew the case would go to court. He said he never asked Ronan to pay his college debt.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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