August 24, 2007 / 5:58 PM / 12 years ago

Ex-astronaut apologizes in love triangle case

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak apologized on Friday to Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, the rival she is accused of attacking during the unraveling of a love triangle with fellow ex-astronaut Bill Oefelein.

Former astronaut Lisa Nowak leaves the stand after testifying at a pre-trial hearing in Orange County Court in Orlando, August 24, 2007. REUTERS/Red Huber/Pool

In her first public statement since her arrest on charges of trying to kidnap Shipman, Nowak said she had been “shocked and overwhelmed at the media coverage” of the case.

Nowak is scheduled to go on trial September 24 on charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary stemming from allegations she stalked and attacked Shipman after driving from Texas to Florida — wearing diapers, according to police, so she wouldn’t have to stop.

“I know this has also been very hard for Colleen Shipman and I would like her to know how very sorry I am for having frightened her in any way and about the subsequent public harassment that has followed all of us,” Nowak told reporters outside an Orange County courtroom in central Florida.

In a court hearing, Nowak asked the judge to let her discard a GPS ankle bracelet that monitors her movements and would alert the court if she traveled to Brevard County, Florida, where Shipman lives.

Shipman testified against the motion. “When I’m home alone without my boyfriend, it gives me comfort,” Shipman said.

Shipman was not present for the apology issued later.

The hearing marked the first time that Nowak, who once flew on the space shuttle, and Shipman appeared together in court.

Nowak told the hearing she did not give her consent for police to search her blue BMW on February 6, which her lawyer argued meant evidence of weapons purchases and Nowak’s cross-country trip to confront Shipman at Orlando International Airport cannot be used against her.

NASA fired Nowak and Oefelein, who dated both Nowak and Shipman..

Orlando Police Det. William Becton, who conducted the search, testified that his five-hour interrogation of Nowak was the hardest of his career and felt like a chess match.

He said Nowak consented to the search when he asked. “She responded with an ‘mm-hmm’ and a slight nod of the head indicating it was OK,” he said.

Florida Judge Marc Lubet ruled that the defense had made a strong case that there was no warrant for the search, shifting the burden to prosecutors to prove that it was legal.

Nowak’s lawyer, Donald Lykkebak, grilled Becton on his claim that he advised Nowak of her constitutional rights to remain silent before conducting the interrogation.

Becton acknowledged he did not read Nowak her rights verbatim from a printed card usually carried by police or get her to sign a waiver of those rights, relying on a tape recording with several inaudible portions.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Becton also told the court he found two used diapers in Nowak’s car and unused children’s diapers in the trunk.

“She said she used the diapers in order that she doesn’t have to make as many stops,” he said.

Judge Lubet will rule at a later date on all defense motions.

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