Ex-astronaut seeks to have charges dropped

April 13, 2009 4:54:38 PM PDT
A former astronaut accused of driving 1,000 miles to confront a romantic rival asked a judge Monday to dismiss the criminal charges against her because prosecutors failed to disclose evidence. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

An attorney for Lisa Nowak filed a motion seeking sanctions against prosecutors and police officers. Attorney Don Lykkebak said they failed to turn over a report that raises questions about whether Nowak's rival, Colleen Shipman, was pepper-sprayed during the confrontation more than two years ago.

"The police made a mountain out of a molehill in this case and now we have learned there was never a molehill to start with," Lykkebak said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office in Orlando didn't return a phone call after business hours.

Nowak was accused of confronting Shipman in the parking lot of the Orlando International Airport in February 2007 after driving from Houston. The initial police report said Nowak wore diapers during her trip but her attorney has disputed that claim.

Police believe Nowak, wearing a wig and trenchcoat, followed Shipman to the parking lot and tried to get into her car, then attacked her with pepper spray. Shipman, the girlfriend of former space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, was able to drive away.

The pepper-spray was crucial in prosecutors charging Nowak with attempted kidnapping, burglary and battery with assault, Lykkebak said in the motion. But a report from fire department medics who treated Shipman at the scene raises questions as to whether Shipman was actually pepper-sprayed, the motion said. The medics' report said Shipman "denied any direct contact with pepper spray and was not experiencing any burning sensations or medical problems."

Nowak's attorneys only received the medics' report last week, months after they deposed Shipman, and they said prosecutors should have turned it over to them earlier. The defense attorneys asked that the attempted kidnapping, burglary and battery charges be dismissed as punishment for the failure of disclosure. They also asked that no reference be made to pepper spray during trial if the charges aren't dismissed.

Nowak was dismissed from the astronaut corps after her arrest and has since been on active duty at a Navy base in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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