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Owens must pay $90K; no degree, commission

Apr. 13, 2007 - 06:13AM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 13, 2007 - 06:13AM  |  
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A former Naval Academy midshipman who was acquitted of rape but found guilty of lesser charges will be expelled with no degree and must repay the school more than $90,000, Navy officials said Thursday.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A former Naval Academy midshipman who was acquitted of rape but found guilty of lesser charges will be expelled with no degree and must repay the school more than $90,000, Navy officials said Thursday.

Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter called Lamar Owens Jr.'s conduct "unsatisfactory" and ordered him discharged.

The decision was first reported by The Sun of Baltimore.

Owens, 23, of Savannah, Ga., was cleared in July by a military jury of charges that he raped a midshipman in her room in Bancroft Hall. He was found guilty of two other charges, including conduct unbecoming an officer, but the same panel of Navy officers later recommended that he not be punished. Supporters had launched a letter-writing campaign on his behalf.

The cost of Owens' education was put at $136,000, but Winter reduced his debt by one-third, to $90,797.75 "in recognition of his noteworthy professional conduct during the time he served as a midshipman following his anticipated graduation date," the Navy said in a written statement.

The academy superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, had recommended that Owens repay nothing.

Kimberly Owens, Lamar Owens' mother, reacted angrily to the news.

"It's not what we expected at all. We really thought they were going to look at it and treat Lamar fairly," she told Navy Times on Friday morning. "But he gets nothing, absolutely nothing."

She said Owens is the first midshipman in the Academy's 162-year history to be criminally prosecuted for having sex in the Naval Academy's dormitory, even though academy officials testified that violations of the rule are fairly common.

"Somebody is having sex in Bancroft Hall right now, OK?" Kimberly Owens said. "It happens all the time. "It's just wrong, the whole thing," she said. "They say this whole honor, courage, commitment, but I don't see it. I don't see how you can ruin somebody's hopes and dreams like that. It took two [people], but he is the only one paying for the mistake. It's a gross injustice.

"I would not recommend anybody go to the Naval Academy, especially anybody of color," she added.

Owens, who identifies herself as a feminist, said she was not impressed by arguments that Rempt's actions have led to an improved climate at the academy for women.

"You are giving them a way out, but they want to be treated equally," she said. "I can't say, treat me equally, but have a get out-of-jail-free card in my back pocket. And that card is to be able to cry false rape."

Owens was charged after an incident Jan. 29, 2006, in the woman's room. Owens testified that the sexual encounter was consensual; his accuser said that she repeatedly rejected his advances.

Both Owens and his accuser testified that they had several drinks at separate locations in Baltimore and Annapolis in the hours before their early-morning encounter.

Other witnesses said the young woman was seen having as many as nine drinks at a restaurant and later at an Annapolis bar favored by midshipmen.

Owens was a team captain and starting quarterback for Navy during the 2005 season, leading the team to an 8-4 record with victories over Army and Air Force, and a win over Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Owens' father told The Sun his son informed him of Winter's decision about 5 p.m. Thursday. Lamar Owens Sr. said he had expected a decision this week because another Navy football player, Kenny Ray Morrison, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for forcing himself on a female midshipman.

"That's how they operate," the elder Owens told The Sun. "Nobody wants to do the right thing. They just passed it along. I thought someone would really take a look at this and see how unfair, how unjust this was."

Lamar Owens Sr. said he isn't sure what the next step will be, but hopes that "somebody will step up and do the right thing."

Among Owens' options are appealing to the Board for Correction of Naval Records, which can waive the debt; seeking congressional intervention; or suing the government for Owens' degree.

In a statement released Thursday night, an academy spokesman said the school was "proceeding to comply" with the Navy's decision.

..........

Staff writer Chris Amos contributed to this report.

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