Officer denies he made sex videos

Navy doctor says he did not use hidden camera

November 07, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- A Navy physician accused of secretly taping Naval Academy midshipmen having sex took the stand in his own defense yesterday, saying that he put an air purifier containing a hidden camera in a guest bedroom in his home to eliminate odors, not to record sex.

Speaking publicly for the first time since being charged in July, Navy Cmdr. Kevin Ronan said he bought the camera to ensure that midshipmen who stayed at his Annapolis house as part of a sponsor program were not throwing parties while he was away. But when his expected deployment fell through, he used the device solely as an air purifier, Ronan said.

"By the end of the weekend, it got a little stuffy," Ronan said of a room used by midshipmen, whom he said he considered his children. "I put an air purifier in the ... bedroom to take care of the smell."

Ronan's testimony came on the seventh day of his court-martial at the Washington Navy Yard, where closing statements are expected today. The 41-year-old physician is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, illegal wiretapping and obstruction of justice. He could receive a maximum sentence of more than 10 years in a Navy brig if convicted on all charges.

Prosecutors have sought to link Ronan to videos of midshipmen having sex with their partners or masturbating, in part by establishing that he wrote "lectures" on one of several discs at the center of the case. Yesterday, they repeatedly questioned Ronan about a computer folder titled "lectures" that they say Ronan used to "stash" gay pornography.

Ronan denied downloading the porn on his computer and said he did not know who had. But prosecutors pointed out that some of the pornography was downloaded on evenings that Ronan has acknowledged using the computer for other purposes.

"So on three separate occasions in the first two weeks of January, some other person saved pictures" of young, athletic men on his computer, Navy prosecutor Lt. Justin Henderson said.

"All I know is that I did not do it," Ronan responded.

In nearly four hours of testimony before six jurors, Ronan, wearing a Navy uniform, calmly explained how he joined the Naval Academy in 2002, becoming brigade medical officer and serving as team doctor for varsity sports.

He became emotional when describing his relationship with about a dozen midshipmen who stayed at his house at different times between 2002 and 2007. Ronan said that he was disappointed to be single without children, and that the midshipmen filled a void.

Ronan, who is now assigned to the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, acknowledged paying more than $600 for a camera hidden in an air purifier in April 2006. He said he was expecting to take an out-of-town assignment with the Navy, and that he wanted to ensure that midshipmen were not violating his rules against drinking at his house.

He said the only time he used the camera - which came with a receiver that could be used to transmit images to a television - was to do an initial test in an empty room. He said that he used the device as an air purifier throughout the summer, and that he stored the device in his attic in the fall.

Ronan testified that he did not see it again until finding it in a guest bedroom Jan. 29, two days after prosecutors say the midshipmen found the DVDs. He said he suspected that one of his accusers had put it there, and had used the camera to secretly record another midshipman.

"Simple question: Did you make any of those videos?" asked Ronan's civilian attorney, William Ferris.

"None of them, sir," the doctor responded.

Ronan said that midshipmen had keys to his house and access to his computer. Under the defense's theory, the videos were made by one or more of the midshipmen who appear in them, including a former midshipman who is more than $120,000 in debt to the academy.

Prosecutors sought to discredit that theory yesterday by using the testimony of a computer specialist called by the defense.

The specialist, Michael Wavada of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, testified that the home computer of the former midshipman lacked the software to make the videos.

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