Ex-astronaut Nowak allowed to shed ankle bracelet
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak no longer has to wear an electronic ankle bracelet before her trial next month on charges she attacked a romantic rival when a love triangle with a fellow ex-astronaut unraveled in February, a Florida judge ordered on Thursday.
But Judge Marc Lubet added three states and Washington, D.C., to the list of places to which she cannot travel.
Lubet said in a court order that Nowak, a Navy captain, had complied with all conditions of her pretrial release, including one that bars her from traveling to Brevard County, Florida, home of her alleged victim, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman.
The judge noted that since the alleged assault, Shipman had gone to Nowak's hometown of Houston three or four times to visit former NASA astronaut Bill Oefelein, whom both women had been dating.
"During these trips by Ms. Shipman to Houston, the electronic monitoring GPS device afforded no protection or benefit to Ms. Shipman, as the defendant could freely move about Houston with no fear of violating any condition of the electronic monitoring GPS device," Lubet wrote.
"Under these circumstances, it is clear to this court that the electronic monitoring GPS device does not fulfill its intended purpose of protecting Ms. Shipman," he wrote.
Lubet restricted Nowak from traveling to Virginia, where Oefelein has moved, or to Maryland, Delaware or Washington,
In addition, Lubet said, Nowak's military commanding officer had agreed to issue a formal military order incorporating her pretrial release conditions, so Nowak would also be subject to military penalties for any violations.
Nowak told Lubet the GPS device posed a danger when its batteries ran down and interfered with her fitness routine.
"It's a great relief not to worry about safety issues related to the batteries' life while I'm driving. I'm also really looking forward to getting back into my former aerobic fitness programs," Nowak said in a statement issued by her lawyer's publicist.
Nowak is scheduled to stand trial on September 24 on charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary. Police say she traveled cross the country with weapons and a disguise to meet Shipman's plane at the Orlando International Airport, followed her to a parking lot and sprayed her with pepper spray.
Police have said Nowak told them she wore diapers in her cross-country car trip so she would not have to make many stops along the way.
Nowak's lawyer has filed a notice that she may pursue an insanity defense if the case goes to trial. The defense has motions pending to have evidence against Nowak thrown out of court, claiming police investigators violated her constitutional rights.